Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Manners in medicine

What’s in a name?

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 15 July 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a687

Titles and Egos

Sickness is not only an injury to the body and the mind, but also an injury to
the ego. Since the ego enables patients to deal with reality, doctors must do all
they can to support the patient’s ego. One way of supporting the ego is to
allow for regression in the service of the ego, so that the patient can feel a
measure of childlike safety and comfort. Therefore, it is sometimes helpful to
allow, but not force, patients to regress by calling them by their first name. Of
course, this must be done selectively and carefully, with all due respect to the
patient’s wishes and sensitivities. Also, it is wise for doctors to remember that
their title is not an entitlement, but a responsibility.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

20 July 2008
Hugh Mann
Eagle Rock, MO 65641 USA