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The General Medical Council: frame of reference or arbiter of morals?
  1. D Hill


    Many members of the public think of the General Medical Council (GMC) as the body which tries doctors: the doctors' law courts, as it were. And, except in the more sober of newspapers and news reports, the 'offences ' which receive the most publicity are those concerning alleged improper relations between doctors and patients. Professor Sir Denis Hill, in the following paper, which he read in the spring of this year to the annual conference of the London Medical Group devoted to a discussion of human sexuality, chose to examine the whole function of the General Medical Council as a frame of moral reference for doctors. Judging allegations of professional misconduct by doctors is the function of the Council's Disciplinary Committee. Judging sexual misconduct forms only a small part of their work. The GMC's responsibility covers the whole notion of morals and morality as it concerns doctors in their professional work. Sir Denis Hill stresses the modern thinking that morality must be learned and that attitudes are always shifting as society alters its norms of what is moral conduct. That is not to say that all that was previously considered not to be moral has now become acceptable but rather that other concepts have entered the field of moral debate. Therefore the GMC must constantly review the frame of reference it offers to doctors and the public may be surprised to learn that that process is never static. Sir Denis Hill in this paper is speaking personally and not as a member of the General Medical Council or of any of that body's special committees.

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