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November 5, 1973

The Chance to Live With Dignity

Author Affiliations

St. Petersburg, Fla

JAMA. 1973;226(6):672. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03230060048018

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To the Editor.—  Medical knowledge increases yearly. Our medical schools train better doctors and postgraduate training constantly improves. Yet, in spite of great increases in knowledge and training, even the finest doctor is not immune from occasional error.Often a decision has to be made in an apparently hopeless case whether or not to submit the patient to exploratory surgery or to dangerous and uncomfortable additional tests and procedures. Sometimes this may involve considerable added expense for the family, as well as additional suffering for the patient. In objection to this, there now arises a great outcry to allow the patient to "die with dignity."There can be merit in withholding further procedures and care only if the physician can be absolutely certain of the hopeless nature of the case, but there is a real danger that an error may be made in assessing hopelessness. Such an error may cost