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Doctors must challenge political decisions that will cause medical harm

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 16 October 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e6894
  1. Sean E Roche, consultant psychiatrist and visiting research fellow in philosophy12
  1. 1Dennis Scott Unit, Edgware HA8 0AD, UK
  2. 2Department of Philosophy, King’s College London, London, UK
  1. sean.roche{at}

Traditionally, British doctors have not been a very political bunch. They might contest decisions about service delivery or resource allocation within their organisations in local micropolitical disputes. New models of health provision or changes in health legislation might galvanise them, as happened in response to the Health and Social Care Act.1 They may even support industrial action, including striking, over revisions to retirement and pension schemes. But while this shows their political engagement may be growing, it is still a far cry from, for example, Greek doctors, who took to the streets of Athens last year to demonstrate against austerity measures and the effect of these measures on healthcare.2

Why are British doctors (in line with doctors in many other developed countries) not given to overt political activism? Reasons are complex, but perhaps part of the problem is the pervasive depoliticisation that has spread through Western capitalist countries. The belief that the fall of the Berlin Wall heralded a new era of unopposed global capitalism was announced by the US political scientist and author …

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