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Doctors as gods

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 03 July 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:64
  1. Clare Dyer, legal correspondent
  1. BMJ

    The BMA is the envy of other professional trade unions for its headline grabbing powers. The Law Society, the solicitors' professional body, produces worthy tracts—what's wrong with the law in this subject, ethics guides for solicitors in that subject—but its strike rate in the media comes nowhere near the BMA's. Perhaps lawyers are thought to have their own interests too much at heart. With doctors, there's no obvious link with money so they must be motivated by their patients' interests, mustn't they?

    But wait a minute, what about that other corrupting motivator—power? Power, in this case, over life and death. Maybe doctors want to be God. That seemed to be the thought behind much of the media coverage of last week's guidance from the BMA ethics committee on withholding and withdrawing life-prolonging medical treatment. The BMA was giving doctors new powers to take life or death decisions, proclaimed the headlines, or doctors were taking the powers for themselves. “More life and death powers for doctors,” said the Daily Mail's headline, over a news story which began: “Doctors were effectively given greater powers yesterday to end the …

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