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A Piece of My Mind
December 6, 2000

The Harm of "First, Do No Harm"

Author Affiliations

A Piece of My Mind Section Editor: Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2000;284(21):2687-2688. doi:10.1001/jama.284.21.2687

Scene 1. A hospital ward. A group of medical students and an older house officer are poised at the foot of a patient's bed discussing possible courses of action for the patient. Tentatively, one of the students suggests a therapy, at which point the house officer raises his forefinger upward and in a profound voice says, "Ah, but Primum non nocere: First, do no harm." A calm, wise, satisfied smile appears on his face as all the students reflect on the weighty import of his words. As the students then walk out on the way to class, each is inspired and awed by the wisdom and nobleness of his or her chosen profession.

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