Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


A cautionary tale for potentially dishonest doctors

BMJ 2022; 377 doi: (Published 23 May 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;377:o1298

Rapid Response:

Re: A cautionary tale for potentially dishonest doctors

Dear Editor,

Daniel Sokol has started an interesting debate, and one that is long overdue. He has taken a view that some may consider extreme and manichean. Why exactly are doctors held to absolute standards of behaviour that other professional groups are not? Why is it more important that a person trusts their doctor more than their lawyers, journalists or politicians?

I write this on a day when our own Prime Minister has re-written the ministerial code, removing all references to honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability (1).

Whilst I appreciate that trust is an integral part of the doctor-patient relationship, Sokol uses terminology that is religious: he describes a 'spectrum of sins', talks of how 'society’s faith in doctors will collapse' and of 'the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship'. Perhaps these analogies were once valid, but are they now?

I think we need to reconsider and redefine what 'bringing the profession into disrepute' actually means, in order to set reasonable and achievable human standards of behaviour for our profession and stop the GMC sliding into absurdity and disrepute itself. Perhaps behaviour outside of our professional role (barring egregious examples) should no longer be subject to regulatory oversight?


Competing interests: No competing interests

27 May 2022
Darren Tymens