Letter: Real doctors have PhDs

Roger Dobson's article "Doctors all around, but few philosophers" (14 December) reports on the increasing number of doctors who have been awarded the title Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), as opposed to medical practitioners. This has, apparently, led to problems of ambiguity, and there have even been suggestions from within the medical profession that the title be reserved for medical practitioners alone.

An academic doctorate is awarded on the basis of a substantial piece of original research. Medical practitioners are called doctor in the absence of holding a doctorate. There is an argument that for a university to award the degree of doctor to those who have demonstrated no substantial research competence is a misuse, indeed an abuse, of its privileges.

Medical practitioners may well need to rethink their titles if they wish to maintain their self-elevated image of scholastic achievement in society but they should not do so at the expense of those who have obtained the title of doctor legitimately.

Name and address withheld

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