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May 12, 2015

Tasking the “Self” in the Self-governance of Medicine

Author Affiliations
  • 1Chair, Arnold P. Gold Foundation, Englewood Cliffs, NJ
  • 2President Emeritus, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC
JAMA. 2015;313(18):1839-1840. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.3736

A fundamental fact of life is that people get sick and sustain injuries, and when they do, they need help. How did prehistoric societies deal with this reality? How did they “govern” the interaction between those who were ill or injured and those who tried to help them? It cannot have been long after humans began to live together that some way must have been found to differentiate between those who were deemed to be effective “healers” and the rest of the group. It seems likely that some individuals gained favor by offering assistance to those who were ill or injured. If these “healers” were lucky, their “patients” survived; and if their luck held, they might well have convinced others to believe in their healing powers. “Governing” that incipient relationship between the person who was ill or injured and the healer was likely a simple matter of believing (ie, trusting) that the healers would do their best to alleviate whatever symptoms were evident.

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