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JAMA 100 Years Ago
March 10, 2010


JAMA. 2010;303(10):992. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.177

That physicians as a class neglect or evade the ordinary duties of citizenship, and do not measure up to their opportunities and obligations in the large questions of public welfare, is a statement that is often made. While we do not admit that this is true to any great extent, yet it cannot be denied that there are grounds for this impeachment. An editorial in the February number of the Southern Medical Journal on “The Physician as a Citizen” discusses this in an interesting way. It states that there is no sufficient reason why the physician should consider himself in a separate class from other men regarding the obligations of every-day life, but that this is a course which he has long pursued, and which is coming more and more to be criticized and condemned. In defense of this attitude, the Journal says that the word “duty” is as sacred to the physician as to any other man, but to the physician the most important problems of duty may seem those relating to his patients and not to society in general; and perhaps from the viewpoint of the patients it is well that it should be so. But the medical man, no less than other men, has solemn obligations to nation, state and municipality, and it is his attitude of evasion and inertia which has contributed to the perversion of law and the demoralization of politics. The editorial further says that it is no excuse for the physician to plead the exactions of his practice as a reason for failure to exercise his suffrage or to manifest a becoming concern in the proper administration of public affairs. The lawyer, the clergyman and the merchant, though absorbed in their several callings, cannot be charged with habitually ignoring the call of civic duty and the opportunities of enlightened citizenship.

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