Intended for healthcare professionals


Reinventing doctors

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 19 December 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1670

Will move doctors from this winter of discontent to a position of leadership

  1. Cyril Chantler, Dean
  1. Guy's, King's, and St Thomas's Medical and Dental School, King's College, London SE1 8WA

    This is not a happy Christmas for our profession or indeed for many doctors. Doctors work extremely long hours under difficult conditions and many are demoralised by lack of resources and constant criticism. We feel proud of the advances in medical science and find it difficult to understand when patients complain because our efforts are not always effective. Much of the recent poor publicity has originated from the reporting of cases before the General Medical Council. It is ironic that these demonstrations of self regulation should lead to criticism of the system of self regulation by both the public and politicians. Now the government is introducing legislation to ensure the quality of clinical services and to make the profession more accountable.

    Last year Professor Roy Porter published a history of medicine entitled The Greatest Benefit to Mankind, which was Samuel Johnson's accolade to the medical profession.1 Porter points out that we are healthier than ever before yet more distrustful of doctors and the “medical system.” As he writes, such ambiguity is not new, but we need to attempt to understand it.

    Much of medicine and medical practice has changed during the past generation. Modern medicine is complicated and often uncertain. For example, babies born at less than 28 weeks' gestation are now routinely ventilated and, though more survive, around a quarter of those who do have disabilities and 10% are severely handicapped.2 Given that about 1% of pregnancies result in premature delivery are we sure that parents are fully informed of …

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