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Time for a sinister practice

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 04 December 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:1509
  1. T A Roper, senior registrar in medicine for the elderly
  1. Leeds

    Between 8% and 15% of Western populations are left handed. The difficulties they face in a society constructed for right handers are unrecognised by the majority. Even our language reflects the discrimination against the left handed. The French word gauche for left has come to mean clumsy or awkward, and the Latin sinistrum has developed evil connotations. Contrast this with the words adroit and dextrous, which, derived from their French and Latin equivalents for right, now mean clever or skilful. The origins of these words have more to do with the historical mistreatment of the left hander—for example, forcing left handed schoolchildren to write with their right hand, than any defect inherent in such people.

    • From the beginning medical students are instructed to use their right hand

    The medical world has been guilty of propagating this discrimination Clinical teaching dictates that all examinations should start from the right hand side of the bed. This position clearly favours the right hander. From the beginning medical students …

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