Thursday, March 1, 2012

Are medical students turning to prostitution to pay bills?

The answer is "No" but you wouldn’t know it if you read the headlines.

Here are a few:

Are med students turning to prostitution to pay tuition?-MSNBC
Sex Work Among Medical Students On the Rise?-ABCNews
Worrying rise in number of medical students in prostitution over last 10 years-Yahoo

And of course, not to be outdone, a London paper, the Metro, gets it all wrong.

Photo courtesy of Noorulann Shahid(@NoorulannShahid)
Goggle “Medical Student Prostitution” and you will find many more, none of which give the reader any hint that US medical students are involved in the alleged practice..

The problem is that the article that these scandalous headlines are referring to says nothing of the kind. It was published in Student BMJ, a division of the formerly prestigious BMJ Group. Its flagship publication, the British Medical Journal, is one of the leading medical journals in the world.

The article is an opinion piece written by Jodi Dixon, a final year medical student at the University of Birmingham. She cites a previously published paper, which surveyed undergraduate students at a London university and stated that 10% of those students “knew of someone” who had worked as a prostitute or an escort. This is what is termed “hearsay” in legal circles. And isn’t it possible that many of the students knew the same person? Please note again that this study did not include medical students.

Ms. Dixon goes on to speculate that some medical students might have to consider prostitution as tuition in UK medical schools rises. She discusses the ethical and legal implications of medical students possibly becoming prostitutes.

The BMJ group apparently sent out a press release that conflates medical students and undergraduate students. This was reprinted as the Yahoo Groups “Research in Psychiatry” story.

Oh there is one bit of additional information, which does not exactly support the headlines. Student BMJ simultaneous published “Confessions of a student prostitute.” The author is anonymous and is a man.

The BMJ Group ought to be ashamed of this.


Anonymous said...

My brother is a doctor and when he had his first article published in the BMJ, I was very impressed and slightly disappointed when he laughed. He compared the BMJ to the Sun in terms of quality of medical journals! With this issue, I can see why he said that. The BMJ need to sort this out and quickly.

Skeptical Scalpel said...


Thanks for the interesting comment. It made me laugh.

Henna Hands said...

Re the University of Birmingham study, in the UK medical students are undergraduates. Medicine is not a graduate program.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Henna, Thanks for the information. The undergraduate students at the London university may or may not have been med students. The evidence that any med student, save the anonymous one who confessed, is involved in prostitution.

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