Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Perceptions of doctors and what they do

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 06 October 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:a

Rapid Response:

Medicine is a profession not a trade.

Expression was made to the worsening image of doctors and their
reluctance and difficulty in letting the public know how it is. This is
perhaps understandable in a society and political climate when consumerism
is everything.

This view however fails to acknowledge that medicine is a profession,
not because some think it is self regulated, but because like religon and
the law it deals with uncertainty.

Medicine may not always be able to provide the answer, solution or
result that the patient would desire or these days tend to demand.
Religon, the law and medicine are not based on consumer satisfaction but
on the reality imposed by the hard facts good and bad, right and wrong,
and in medicne often the limitations of resources, technique and
knowledge. Indeed the challange to the integrity of such a professional is
to deal in and relate to that reality and not try to sell them something
that isn`t.

It is encumbant on us as protectors of professional standards to get
the public and the politicians back to reality.

Ref John K Davis, Professions, Trades and the Obligation to inform.
Journal of Applied Philosophy p167 Vol 8 Num 2 1991

Competing interests: No competing interests

07 October 2001
Richard Colman
General and Occupational physician