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November 6, 1991

Sutton's Law: Rob Banks Because You Enjoy It

Author Affiliations

Grand Forks, ND

Grand Forks, ND

JAMA. 1991;266(17):2376. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03470170064025

To the Editor.—  In his eulogy to Dr William Dock, Dr Bing1 mentions Dock's cardinal rule of medicine, "Sutton's Law," as a revision of a statement by the "bank robber who said he robbed banks because 'that's where the money is." Having learned this maxim from one of my mentors, I was tempted to learn more about Willie Sutton.In his autobiography, there is a chapter on Sutton's Law in which its origin is attributed to Dock and its popularization is attributed to Petersdorf and Beeson.2 Sutton mentions the irony of teaching medicine with the words of a bank robber, confesses that "I never said it," gives credit to some enterprising reporter, and states that he robbed banks "because I enjoyed it."The Law remains useful in medicine even though its concept is clearer than its origin.This letter was shown to the author, who declined to reply