Professional courtesy

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Professional courtesy chiefly refers to an understanding that exists between practitioners of a particular profession (mainly medicine and police work) and certain individuals with whom they may come into contact in the course of their duties, especially family members or others working in their field. The phrase may also be applied in a literal form, such as the required ethical behavior of lawyers towards each other.[1]

In medicine

Among physicians, it is traditional not to charge for treatment of each other's family.[2] The purpose is to discourage physicians from treating members of their own family, as well as to foster bonds among physicians; the custom dates back to Hippocrates.[3]

In law enforcement

Since approximately 1990, the term has been used to refer to the practice by law enforcement officers allowing other officers to engage in traffic violations and some crimes without being reported or arrested. There are three tools that law enforcement officers use to implement "professional courtesy":

First, some states (such as California) issue "confidential plates" to employees in law enforcement ,and other public officials. The plates keep identities and addresses anonymous, allowing employees the inadvertent ability to travel on toll-ways without charge.[4] Even serious offences such as drunk driving are subject to professional courtesy "discretion", and federal law assists in the process by exempting police officers and firefighters from a federal law that requires truck drivers to be blood-tested after an accident.[5]

Third, there is a web site offering law enforcement employees the purchase of a "family card" they can give to friends and family to produce at, for example, a traffic stop to identify them to the officer as a family member. Anti-police groups and people wary of the ethical actions of police officers purport that where an ordinary member of the public would get a ticket this notification card will cause the officer to overlook any violations of the law the person may have made and tell them to go on their way.[6] The vendor of this card is explicit about the intention behind these cards.[7]

In theater

Until the 1960s it was customary for theater managements to permit members of Actors Equity and other members of the profession into Broadway shows for free. This practice continues in the Off-Off-Broadway world where members of Equity must be admitted free of charge to any Showcase production in which there is a member of the union in the cast if there are seats left at curtain time.[8] This applies as well to bona fide producers, directors and casting directors, who do not have to wait until showtime to be seated.


  1. "Code of Professional Courtesy". Kentucky Bar Association. Retrieved 2006-12-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "AMA Code of Medical Ethics, E-6.13, Professional Courtesy". Retrieved 2013-05-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Rathbun, Katharine C., M.D.; Richards, Edward P. III, J.D.; Professional Courtesy; Missouri Medicine; 1998;95:18-20; (on-line).
  4. "Special license plates shield officials from traffic tickets". Retrieved 2009-06-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Nalder, Eric; Kamb, Lewis; Investigative, P-I (2007-08-05). "A broken system works in favor of cops busted for DUI". Retrieved 2009-06-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Professional Courtesy". Retrieved 2006-12-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "LEO Pro Cards". Retrieved 2012-08-05. External link in |work= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. AEA website