Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Medical Classics


BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 15 November 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:1049
  1. Daniel Sokol, lecturer in medical ethics and law, St George's Hospital Medical School, London
  1. daniel.sokol{at}

    I have long held the dangerous belief that William Osler's essays, judiciously used, could render teachers of medical ethics redundant. Virtually all the medical student needs for ethical behaviour is contained within them.

    One of Osler's most famous essays, Aequanimitas, was first delivered to newly minted doctors in 1889 as a valedictory address at the Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Osler urges his young audience to “consider but two of the score of elements which may make or mar your lives.” The first is imperturbability, which refers to “calmness amid storm, clearness of judgment in moments of grave peril.” This poker faced composure, he claims, is essential to instil confidence in impressionable or frightened patients. Imperturbability is in …

    View Full Text

    Log in

    Log in through your institution


    * For online subscription