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Student soapbox: learning respect

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 01 May 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:0105158
  1. Andrew West, psychiatrist1,
  2. Christopher Bulstrode, Surgeon2,
  3. Victoria Hunt, a person not corrupted by medical training3
  1. 1Oxford
  2. 2Oxford
  3. 3Oxford

When as a medical student you dissected a cadaver, were there things said and done that left you deeply worried about the respect that you might be shown when you are dead? Do you remember the first time that you performed a vaginal or a rectal examination? Were you in a queue of students lining up to practise on an anaesthetised patient who might or might not have known what was going to be done to them? Were you a bit embarrassed then as well? Perhaps this was expressed as ribald humour, a common defence in ethically challenging situations. Or was the examination performed on an uncomplaining conscious patient, who felt that they did not have the right to question why this nasty thing had to be done again and again? You may have felt a sense of unease at the time. You may even have decided that the procedure was wrong. But you were quickly taught that those doubts were immature and not to be heeded. And you …

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