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August 25, 1969

Medicine and the Laity

JAMA. 1969;209(8):1214. doi:10.1001/jama.1969.03160210046011

While medicine has always made news, until recently the layman has been happy to leave its practice to those who have applied themselves full-time to the art. Currently, however, spurred on by the publicity given to human experimentation, transplant procedures, and the seemingly inconclusive discussions within the profession on a matter as fundamental as the determination of death, laymen are asking to be allowed to tiptoe in where they have previously feared to tread, and to join in making the decisions which will determine medicine's future.

As the crux of medicine is human affairs, such outside opinions are not necessarily as questionable as ivory-tower professionals like to pretend. Furthermore, medicine is not alone among specialist disciplines in having to answer a challenge to justify itself. Today all of science is under public scrutiny.

There is one vital prerequisite, however, if the sought-for involvement of laymen in scientific and medical decision-making