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Alcohol gifts in medicine

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Doctors commonly receive gifts of alcohol in professional settings, particularly after giving a talk. This article reflects our personal opinions of this practice. We want our colleagues to consider the symbolism of giving or receiving alcohol as a gift in a professional setting. This is not a promotion of abstinence.

Doctors should be aware of the preventable death and suffering caused by the harmful consumption of alcohol. Thirty per cent of emergency department attendances are alcohol related,1 and there are also personal health risks, mental health issues and social issues involved. Balanced against this, the health benefits of drinking alcohol are not clearly established.2 There is little to be said in favour of the promotion of alcohol, but consumption is a personal choice. In contrast, gift giving of alcohol in professional settings is a public statement.

Many professional bodies have policies on alcohol consumption, but we could find none — including the websites of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, and Royal Australian College of General Practitioners — with policies on giving alcohol as gifts. Health care professionals have a duty to promote health; as individuals and in our professional groups. The provision of alcohol as a gift would seem to be contrary to a basic tenet of medical practice,…