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May 16, 2007

What Cannot Be Said on Television About Health Care

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Department of Clinical Bioethics, The Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

JAMA. 2007;297(19):2131-2133. doi:10.1001/jama.297.19.2131

“There are 400,000 words in the English language, and there are seven of them that you can't say on television.”1 said George Carlin. For many years, health care faced the same inhibition; certain words could not be uttered in public about health care. Rationing was one such word. In the 1980s and 1990s, commentators who discussed rationing, such as Callahan and Lamm, were publicly censured for their views.2,3

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