July 18, 1990

The Benefit of the Doubt

Author Affiliations

Indianapolis, Ind

Indianapolis, Ind

JAMA. 1990;264(3):341. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03450030057033

Alberta Johnson is an obese woman with diabetes and hypertension. I've admitted to myself that I'll never really be able to comprehend the physical and social struggles of her past, present, or future. I've never been a victim of poverty, unwanted pregnancy, ineffective schooling, or job discrimination. In fact, I've never been a victim of anything. Ms Johnson gains about 25 pounds per year and takes her medications, or maybe her mother's, when she doesn't feel well. She never misses an appointment though, because inevitably she has a sore knee, or indigestion, or a fungal rash that I didn't quite fix the last time. She also feels compelled to point out the deficiencies of the social net at each visit. I get angry at Ms Johnson because she won't meet me halfway. She points out that I don't even know where halfway is.

Frank Tarkin is an angry man with