Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

Doctors have a community responsibility

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 15 November 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1298
  1. Jonathan Shepherd (, professor of oral and maxillofacial surgerya
  1. a University of Wales College of Medicine, Heath Park, Cardiff, CF4 4XY

    The implications of the General Medical Council's guidance may not yet have been understood fully by many doctors. It emphasises doctors' wider responsibilities and moves away from the assumption that community is just a voluntary association of individuals. A communitarian view holds that society is more than this, constituting a structured, enduring entity where people are bound together by shared needs, interests, and sensibilities.1 Doctors' ambivalence may reflect beliefs that duties to individual patients and to the community usually conflict rather than, as is usually the case, complement each other.

    This ambivalence may, however, reflect difficulties …

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