Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Opinion BMJ Student

Medicine is designed for righthanded people

BMJ 2024; 385 doi: (Published 24 April 2024) Cite this as: BMJ 2024;385:q933

Rapid Response:

Re: Medicine is designed for righthanded people

Dear Editor

Re BMJ 2024;385:q933

I enjoyed Chloe Milton’s Opinion piece of the tribulations of being a left-handed doctor (BMJ, 11 May 2024), and support her call to end unconscious discrimination against left-handers. As a left-handed consultant plastic and hand surgeon I identify with all of the issues that she raised, and would add that I am developing arthritis in my left trapeziometacarpal joint, which seems to be caused/exacerbated by having to put sideways pressure on right handed instruments with ratchets (e.g. needle-holders) in order to release them.

There are several instruments that are close to impossible to use left handed including the Gillies needle holder and Watson skin knife. I was incredibly lucky as an SHO in Plastic Surgery to work for the amazing Awf Quaba, himself a left-hander, who would let me use his left-handed instruments, and who also taught be to take a skin graft “backhand”. I am sad to report that as a consultant I have not been able to obtain any left-handed instruments myself.

As Milton alludes, there are advantages to being a left handed surgeon - I am ambidextrous enough to use a scalpel with either hand (I was brought up to hold my table knife in my right hand for eating). There is an advantage to having one left and one right handed surgeon, so that when we are on opposite sides of the patient/ hand table we are both in a good position ergonomically. This especially facilitates teaching.

Best wishes

James Henderson
Consultant Plastic Surgeon
Southmead Hospital

Competing interests: No competing interests

16 May 2024
James Henderson
Plastic Surgeon
Southmead Hospital. Bristol