Intended for healthcare professionals


Equality for people with disabilities in medicine

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 16 October 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:882
  1. Stewart Mercer, Senior clinical research fellow,
  2. Paul Dieppe, director MRC HSRC,
  3. Ruth Chambers, head,
  4. Rhona MacDonald, editor Career Focus (
  1. General Practice and Primary Care, Division of Community-based Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 0RR
  2. Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 2PR
  3. Stoke-on-Trent Teaching Primary Care Trust Programme, Stoke-on-Trent ST4 4LX
  4. BMJ

    Time for action and partnerships

    As a result of our advances in medical science and technology more lives are being saved than ever before, although many people who are saved from death are left disabled. Add to this the expansion of the ageing population, in whom the prevalence of physical impairments is highest, and disability emerges as a major facet of modern society–one in four people in the United Kingdom has a disability or is closely associated with someone who has.1 Disability has become part and parcel of our human experience. By definition, therefore, the challenges facing citizens with disabilities are now a major “mainstream issue,” both for society in general and for the medical profession in particular.

    Yet several reports and studies indicate that doctors commonly fail to identify and tackle disability issues.26 Why is it that health professionals often seem unwilling or unable to engage with people with disabilities?

    One reason may be the poor record that the medical profession in the United Kingdom has in treating people with disabilities as equal within its own ranks. We recently organised a two day conference to …

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