Fillers One hundred years ago

Professional jealousy

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 08 April 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:887

An Italian philosopher, Signor Ferriani, who has made extensive inquiries into what may be called the psychology of occupation, has constructed a scale showing the varying degrees in which professional jealousy exists in different professions. The lowest place in this scale is assigned to architects; next above them come clergymen, advocates, and military officers; then follow in order from below upwards, professors of science and literature, journalists, authors, doctors, and actors. It will be seen that our profession holds a bad eminence in the scale of jealousy, being markedas only a little lower than actors. According to Ferriani doctors display that mean vice by affecting to regard each other as quacks. The old saying, Invidia medicorum pessima, shows that doctors have long had an evil reputation in this respect. How is this to be accounted for? Ferriani thinks that the comparatively slight tendency to jealousy which he notes in architects and advocates is to be explained by “the precision and truth of their studies.” From this remarkable pronouncement we are inclined to think that our philosopher himself belongs to one or other of those favoured professions. It would certainly not occur to many people, in this country at any rate, that the study of the law was in any special way marked either by precision or by truth. It may be admitted that barristers are, as a rule, less jealous of each other than doctors. The reason of this, however, is to be found not so much in the nature of their studies as in the fact that their personal feelings are but little engaged in the collisions which occur between them…

But it is to be feared that in a profession in which men are necessarily brought into such close personal rivalry as is the case in medicine, jealousy, with its unhappy and often degrading consequences, is inevitable. There is no reason, however, why it should be so rampant. The remedy is that each of us should, by self-discipline and the pursuit of a high ideal of life, as far as possible subdue sordid commercial instincts, and look to the cultivation of a noble science and the practice of a beneficent art as in themselves our best reward. A man who is devoted to his professionfor its own sake, and whose first consideration is not his own profit but the good of his patient,is not likely to be jealous of any one, and cannot be hurt by the envy, hatred, and uncharitableness of others. (BMJ 1904;i: 151)

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