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‘Patient trade’ in Germany: an ethical issue at the practitioner–clinician interface in 1909 and 2009
  1. Andreas-Holger Maehle
  1. Correspondence to Andreas-Holger Maehle, Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease, Wolfson Research Institute, Durham University, Queen's Campus, Stockton TS17 6BH, UK; a.h.maehle{at}


In 2009 the German media featured the so-called ‘patient trade’ scandal. Offending against the rules of the professional code for German doctors, some medical practitioners had accepted bonus payments from specific hospitals for referring patients to them. This article discusses a historical precedent for this scandal, the patient trade affair of 1909, in which several medical professors of the Berlin university clinics were accused of having paid agents for bringing them lucrative private patients. Although the historical contexts were different, then, as in 2009, a commercial attitude towards medical practice clashed with the ethical ideal of the economically disinterested doctor.

  • History
  • modern medicine
  • social history
  • medical ethics/bioethics
  • journalism

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  • Funding Wellcome Trust.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.