The medical profession requires
practitioners to have certain qualities besides the medical knowledge and
skills to enhance their relationship with patients, professional colleagues and
other stakeholders. According to Coverdale et al. (2), the qualities help them
to adhere to professional obligations and standards of medical practice (p.
71). The primary accountability item in medical practice is a signature, which
includes any symbol, mark, or device that a doctor may choose to represent
them. It may be written by hand, stamped, printed, typewritten, photographed,
engraved, or cut from an instrument and attached into another. Therefore, even
when a written signature does not accompany a stamp, the stamp is entirely
representative of the involved doctor.
The signature is the primary
indicator of the doctor’s involvement in a particular procedure; hence, it is
used to track their actions. According to Herring, it also serves as evidence
that a doctor carried out an evaluation, conducted a process, or prescribed
drugs to a patient (p. 164). Moreover, it may indicate that a doctor has
approved a particular procedure for an individual patient. Therefore, the
signature is so sensitive that it must only be kept by the owner or in the case
of a stamp there should be a written policy to designate the staff that are
authorized to use it and the specific documents they can handle. This essay describes
the relationship between signature, honesty, and professionalism in medical
Doctors are amongst the most trusted
professionals. As a result, Coverdale et al. (2) argue that as long as patients
and other clients can see the signature of a medical doctor, they are likely to
comply with the requirements of the signed document (p. 73). This implies that
doctors need to use their signature with ultimate care to avoid misapplication
which may be costly to the patient.
Therefore, even when a doctor
delegates duties to an unregistered colleague or a medical student, they need
to sign the documents themselves to ascertain that the procedures were followed
as required. The delegating doctor should not just append their signature.
Instead, Marques (5) recommends that they should evaluate the entire process to
ensure that the medical student or the unregistered colleague followed the
standard operating procedures and standards of practice in a manner that
ensures the safety of the patient and optimizes patient outcomes (p. 53).
However, some dishonest doctors
just sign documents from the member of staff to whom they had delegated duties
without confirming whether the assignment was completed effectively. This
results in mistakes caused by the designee to pass through the hands of a
medical doctor unnoticed hence patient safety is compromised, or patients end
up receiving the wrong treatment which compromises outcomes. Since the doctor’s signature implies that
they were in charge of the procedure, the mistakes are linked to them.
Marques et al. (5) state that
while delegating transfers the duty to another person, the responsibility is
left to the delegating doctor (p. 51). Given that the signature is legally
binding, the doctor may end up in jail or lose their registration as a result
of the mistakes that they could have corrected by supervising the delegated
work before signing the accompanying documents. Thus, Feragen (3) suggests that
a medical doctor must take all the reasonable steps to verify the content of
anything that they are required to sign (p. 1052).
Besides, doctors are given the
authority to sign other documents such as sickness reports and death
certificates. They are trusted with such records because of the society’s trust
on the professionalism of the doctor. Therefore, Herring suggests that a doctor
should never sign statements that are not clear to them (p. 164). Before
signing any document, a medical doctor must ascertain that they reasonably
believe that the information is valid and is an accurate reflection of the
In the recent past, patients have
expressed concerns over professionalism of medical doctors. According to Chaudhry
et al. (1), this has compelled regulatory and professional bodies to make
professionalism a formal requirement in the practice of medicine (p. 1791). The
enhanced scrutiny of doctors has prioritized the need to append signatures in
the documents that represent the doctor’s work for verification and follow up in
case lack of professionalism is noted in the delivery of clinical services to
Professionalism, which serves as
a social contract between the doctor and the society, requires them to uphold
specific attitudes, values, and behaviors in the course of their practice.
Doctors must possess the personal attributes of honesty, ability to manage
conflicts of interest, and integrity. As stated by Chaudhry et al. (1), they
are obliged to adhere to regulatory requirements regarding accountability,
ethical conduct, and other qualities that improve their professionalism (p.
1792). No professional doctor would misuse or allow mishandling of their
signature because it represents them.
Coverdale et al. (2) insist that
professionalism must be instilled in medical students so that they will not
have a hard time practicing it after they graduate (p. 75). Despite the
trending inclusion of professionalism in the curriculums of medical school, the
incidences of dishonesty are on the rise. If professionalism is not instilled
in medical students while they are in medical school, it is likely that they
will continue with the trend during practice. Feragen (3) argues that efforts
must be made to instill the culture of honesty especially in issues regarding
In conclusion, medical practice
and its progress are anchored in authenticity, which can only be achieved
through honest engagements between the patient and the doctor as well as among
healthcare professionals. Doctors and medical students must uphold their
trustworthiness by remaining honest in all their undertakings. The appropriate use
of one’ signature is a key indicator of honesty and professionalism. Professional
and honest doctors make it their priority to verify all documents before
signing them. Medical students must start practicing these virtues by keeping
away from academic malpractices as well as avoiding dishonesty in the use of
signatures in class and in other places.