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November 11, 2009

The Purpose and Limits to Professional Self-regulation

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: The Kings Fund, London, United Kingdom.

JAMA. 2009;302(18):2032-2033. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1644

Trust me, I’m a doctor.” In the United States and United Kingdom, a recent survey reports, more than 80% of the public does.1 According to the Cambridge moral philosopher O’Neill, “Each of us and every profession and every institution needs to be trusted.”2 She questioned whether the new climate of accountability and regulation in society was improving trust in physicians. She suggested that new systems of accountability cannot only change but also distort the proper aims of professional practice; if society wants a culture of public service then professionals and public servants must in the end be free to serve the public rather than their paymasters.2 However, if physicians are to be trusted by the public they serve, they have to deserve to be trusted, and that is why medical professionalism matters.