• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

McCoy: I would like to remedy that situation.

Spock: If you believe I have acted irregularly, then relieve me of duty. That is your prerogative as medical officer of this ship.

You're The Leader, the Reasonable Authority Figure, The Captain, The Emperor! You rule a world,a galaxy, a dimension, multiple universes! Everyone obeys you! Even if you do have a cold, or a broken arm! So why does this man try to order you about? And acts huffy when you don't obey in haste?

Well, he's your doctor. By which we mean, he is that kind of doctor. Unless, of course, he's the healer, the midwife, the nurse, The Medic, or any other member of the healing profession. And he is quite certain that you must obey The Doctor's Orders.

No matter what exalted position their patients hold, and what power the patient has over the doctor in non-medical matters, in their field of expertise, doctors are adamant that they are in charge. This does not mean that the patient will actually obey — even the Reasonable Authority Figure may defy him for reasons of state — but the doctor will regard it as being a bad patient, not their exercising rightful authority.

Examples of Doctor's Orders include:



  • This is the premise of Analyze This: a mob boss needs a psychiatrist, who has trouble helping him because he's afraid to assert himself.


  • In John C. Wright's Count to a Trillion, Menelaus can talk casually with the effective ruler of Earth. When he must be examined by a doctor, he finds it much harder to assert himself.
  • In Harry Potter, Madam Pomphrey asserted herself quite strongly in The Prisoner of Azkaban when authority figures wanted to speak to students in her care.
    • Later, Dumbledore averts this trope when he instead goes to the more trustworthy Snape.
  • Zig Zagged in Artemis Fowl: The Corrupt Corporate Executive's doctors are very much aware of his Mafia connections, so they give medical advice very politely. In fact, when he sends his secretary out for celebratory cigars, she invokes this trope by trying to remind him of what the doctors said before remembering who she's talking to.
  • Happens all the time in Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series. Healers commands are more or less absolute.
  • There are so many times in Warrior Cats when the medicine cat says "As your medicine cat, I'm ordering you to rest" or something along those lines - even when the cat they're ordering around is their Clan leader and older than them.
  • In Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet novel Invincible, Geary orders a day of rest despite many urgent needs, because exhaustion is hampering their work efforts. He suspects that a doctor who speaks to him hasn't slept for days, including that one, and thinks of how doctors take their oaths more seriously than they do their positions as officers.

Live Action TV

  • Comes up sometimes in Star Trek, where the ship's doctor has the authority to relieve the captain of command in the matters of health.
    • Such as in "The Tholian Web", where Spock tells him to do it if he believes it proper.
  • Doc Martin is routinely frustrated by patients ignoring his advice and doing what they want. One woman nearly killed herself trying to function with a herniated vertebra.
  • Comes up on Merlin. Gaius is one of the few people who can often give Uther direction without getting in trouble, although Uther still tends to yell a lot. Granted,his advice has gone outside the medical realm a few times, again mostly to Uther telling him to get lost.
  • A plot point in the Horatio Hornblower Made for TV Movie Mutiny involved the officers of the HMS Renown having to convince the ship's doctor to declare Captain Sawyer medically unfit to command due to his slipping sanity.


  • In Dorothy L. Sayers's radio play The Man Born To Be King, she put notes down for King Herod's physician: he must speak with authority, even though he's giving those orders to the king.

Web Comics

Real Life

  • In Britain where Prime Minister David Cameron was visiting a hospital, and hadn't done all the health and safety stuff. The doctor, as you will not be surprised to find out, shouted down the prime minister.
  • There was a US Supreme Court Justice [1] who had an agreement with his doctor: he would serve until the doctor said he was getting too senile to be able to render decisions. As soon as his doctor told him that, he announced his retirement. (I don't remember which one though; it was a relatively recent one, like in the past 15-20 years.)
  1. they serve until they retire or die, whichever comes first