Intended for healthcare professionals


Calling a spade a spade

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 01 September 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:523
  1. Daniel K Sokol, PhD candidate, medical ethics unit (
  1. department of primary health care and general practice, Imperial College London

    Medical ethicists are notorious for their interest in rare and far fetched cases. “Vive la différence!” could be an ethicist's motto. Here I go against the trend and dwell on one of the most ordinary ethical issues in clinical medicine. So ordinary is it that many do not consider it an ethical issue at all. What is undeniable is that the issue—ethical or not—affects scores of patients, doctors, and medical students across the country. Should medical students be introduced to patients as “student doctors”?

    Most medical students, at some time in their training, have been called “student doctors” or “doctors” by their seniors. Registrars and consultants regularly boost the egos of their eager students with a taster of that delectable title, Doctor. Many patients are led to believe that student doctors are bona fide doctors and go on to address them as such for the rest of the consultation. More than encouraging the students, the title also serves to reassure …

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