On the first day of Christmas my patient gave to me . . .
The doctor-patient relationship is unique. It requires professional distance and an implementation of boundaries on the part of the doctor. As medical students, we are witnesses to how events might challenge those boundaries, potentially damaging the relationship if handled badly. But we can also nurture and strengthen it through good communication skills. Such events—for example, breaking bad news—can be easily recognised and prepared for through guidelines and training. Others might not be as straightforward and present themselves disguised as a box of chocolates or an exquisitely wrapped watch. With woolly guidelines and a bell ringing conflict of interests, many doctors are unsure how to proceed when offered a gift by their patients.
Is it ethical to accept? After all, medical doctrine recognises the autonomy of patients. Plus a gift is a glowing sign of gratitude. In a profession where making the wrong choices has devastating repercussions, surely we should embrace