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June 24, 1974

Medicine and Society

JAMA. 1974;228(13):1668-1669. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230380036022

The term "medicine" has various meanings. As a concrete term it refers to what a physician prescribes for a sick patient. In a more generalized sense, it comprehends what is taught in medical school. But in its broadest and most abstract reference it involves the whole complex of activities having to do with health—and this involves scientific, historical, sociological, and philosophical aspects. In this latter sense, a recent—thin but fascinating—paperback volume1 provides a splendid analysis. The author, British neurologist Henry Miller, is a remarkably fine writer of graceful and lucid prose and the peer of the late Richard Asher. The book, directed primarily to the layman, forms part of a series that discusses "the impact of scientific discovery and technological development on society."

The problems concern both laymen and physicians, for both participate in the process and both have a vital stake. The technical knowledge of the physician places