Intended for healthcare professionals


Patients' views of the good doctor

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 28 September 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:668

Doctors have to earn patients' trust

  1. Angela Coulter (, chief executive.
  1. Picker Institute Europe, Oxford OX1 1RX

    Most doctors are good doctors in the eyes of most patients. Despite the media's fixation with medical errors and damaged patients, doctors come high in the popularity stakes in almost any poll, compared with other professions or trades.1 Furthermore, familiarity tends to breed contentment, not contempt. Patients who have recent experience of medical care tend to give higher, less critical ratings than patients whose experience is less current.2 The medical profession does, however, attract criticism from patients—sometimes deservedly so.

    Since the 1970s patients' groups, and women's health groups in particular, have drawn attention to the deficiencies of the traditional medical model and its tendency to demean and disempower patients.3 The reaction of the early antipaternalists was to emphasise self education and self help as a way of redressing the power imbalance between doctors and patients and avoiding dependence on orthodox medicine. It is often forgotten that most healthcare is self care,4 but too often the manner of healthcare delivery serves …

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