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Medical professionalism and ideological symbols in doctors’ rooms
  1. Udo Schuklenk
  1. Correspondence to:
 U Schuklenk
 Centre for Ethics in Public Policy and Corporate Governance, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK; udo.schuklenk{at}

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Is it time to leave the non-professional aspects of personal life at the door and face patients as medical professionals and no more?

Ever wondered about the appropriateness of Christian doctors displaying pictures of Pope Benedict, Muslim doctors displaying pictures of Osama son of Laden or former PLO leader Yassir Arafat, or gay doctors proudly flying the rainbow flag in their rooms? I suggest that we should be concerned about such display of religious, political, or other allegiance to non-professional causes in loci of health care delivery.

Let us take a step back, however, and ask why we seek health care professionals’ help or assistance. Our reasons have, of course, primarily to do with doing our fair share by way of enabling health care delivery services to achieve their primary objectives for being in existence, namely to ensure that we live as long as is feasible at as high a quality of life as is possible. While legitimate questions may be asked about acceptable trade-offs between length and quality of life, broadly speaking, that is what we expect health care providers to do for us. Importantly, we expect them to do so in a professional manner. This is very much in line with the historical roots of the idea of professionalism, meaning essentially to profess publicly to serve the public good.1 The public …

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