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October 15, 1960

The Professional Responsibility of the Physician

Author Affiliations

Evanston, Ill.

JAMA. 1960;174(7):878-881. doi:10.1001/jama.1960.63030070007012

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Society sets the minimal standards of medical practice. These are represented by state board examinations, by the few national and state laws that deal with certain aspects of medical practice, and by the threat of criminal or civil action in instances of malpractice or overt disregard of law. Fortunately, when these standards are compared with the actual level of medical practice, they are minimal indeed.

One reason why the average performance of the physician exceeds society's minimal standards is that the medical profession has devised ways of setting and enforcing its own minimal standards— standards that are well above those required by society. One way in which this has been accomplished has been the enforcement by hospital staffs and county and state medical associations of a certain standard of professional performance and ethical practice; many professional societies demand high qualifications. Aside from a moral appeal, the principal source of power

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