JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.
An amendment to the penal code was recently introduced into one of the state legislatures making it a felony to have in charge the care, custody or control of a sick or disabled person without providing him with “the attendance of a competent, licensed physician.” The physician must be not only licensed but “competent.” We wonder on what grounds is the layman, when engaging a physician, to satisfy himself as to the latter's competency, if his license may not be taken as sufficient presumptive evidence thereof? And who is to decide subsequently if things turn out unfortunately, whether the licensed physician was competent or not? And how is the responsibility of the person who engaged him to be determined for not discriminating between a merely licensed and a competent physician? But exactitude in phraseology appears to be as little regarded in matters medical as apparently in matters legislative. Words, most people seem to think, have no rights. Nevertheless they take their revenge for the indignities put on them by the frequent misunderstandings to which their misuse gives rise, and in the opportunities they afford to disingenuousness to quibble. In legal matters there is some benefit therefrom accruing to one person at any rate—the lawyer. But in medicine no one benefits, not even the physician.
WHAT IS A “COMPETENT” PHYSICIAN?. JAMA. 2007;298(14):1706. doi:10.1001/jama.298.14.1706-b