What makes a good doctor?

September 26, 2002

A good doctor should be compassionate, understanding, honest and empathetic reveals a poll carried out in this week's BMJ.

Over 100 people from 24 countries responded to two questions posted on the BMJ website (bmj.com): 'what makes a good doctor?' and 'how can we make one?'

In response to the first question 70 qualities were listed including compassion, understanding, honesty, humanity, competence, commitment, empathy, respect, creativity and a sense of justice. In addition a number of common themes emerged. Firstly, there was a consensus that there are plenty of good doctors and they should be nurtured. Secondly a good doctor, is first and foremost, a good human being. Thirdly, a good doctor is someone who likes people and genuinely wants to help them. Finally, the majority of respondents concluded that good doctors are special in some way, and will make an extra effort to care for their patients.

Making a good doctor seemed a greater challenge than defining one. However there was a general consensus that healthcare systems across the world were failing to produce good doctors.

A number of respondents felt that 'bad' doctors were a product of a society that undervalues doctors. The response of one first year intern from Israel echoed the thoughts of several others: "Our society undervalues doctors yet expects and will accept nothing short of perfection... Even with perfect risk management mistakes will be 'made'...people will die young or decline with age, and not all pregnancies will have a good outcome. Unfortunately doctors are more easily sued than God, and moreover...pay cash."
To read the debate in full log on to www.bmj.com/gooddoctor


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