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Filler Christmas 2011: Professional Matters

Qualifications of a good surgeon

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 19 December 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d8002
  1. William David McKinlay, Clitheroe, Lancashire, UK
  1. david{at}

William McKinlay finds that Paracelsus has some sound advice for surgical selection committees

Regarding his innate temper

  • A clear conscience,

  • Desire to learn and to gather experience,

  • A gentle heart and a cheerful spirit,

  • Moral manner of life and sobriety in all things,

  • Greater regard for his honour than for money,

  • Greater interest in being useful to his patient than to himself,

  • He must not be married to a bigot,

  • He should not be a runaway monk,

  • He should not practise self-abuse,

  • He must not have a red beard,

  • He must not act without judgment,

  • He must not accept belief without understanding,

  • He must not scorn the workings of chance,

  • He must not boast of knowing anything without experience,

  • He must never boast or praise himself,

  • He must despise no one.


Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d8002


  • From Paracelsus (1493-1541), Qualifications of a good surgeon. In: Paracelsus—Selected Writings, edited with an introduction by Jolande Jacobi, translated by Nobert Guterman. Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1951.

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