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Whistleblowing—a dangerous choice?

Medical students have a duty to report on substandard care

  • By: Nicole Needham
  • Published: 11 December 2012
  • DOI: 10.1136/sbmj.e7870
  • Cite this as: Student BMJ 2012;20:e7870

What is whistleblowing? It is the reporting of suspected wrongdoing within an organisation. A whistleblower might raise concerns about an individual or a group of people, including members of staff at any level of seniority.

The term whistleblowing is interpreted in various ways. For some, it represents an obligatory process, but for others, the terms “grass” and “sneak” come to mind. The term was first used by Ralph Nader, a civic activist in the United States in the early 1970s, who wanted to avoid these negative connotations.1

Many people think that doctors have a duty to report any concerns with regard to the optimal care and safety of patients. In the United Kingdom, this duty is formally set down by the General Medical Council (GMC), which also advocates a culture where it is acceptable for staff and students to raise concerns.2

Whistleblowing in medicine is encouraged in principle by the

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