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Article
December 18, 1991

Professionalism at Its Worst

Author Affiliations

From the Executive Vice President, American Medical Association, Chicago, Ill.

From the Executive Vice President, American Medical Association, Chicago, Ill.

JAMA. 1991;266(23):3338. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03470230096038
Abstract

There is no human endeavor or organization in which perfection is achieved even when it is assiduously sought. More than most, the medical profession, because of its unique role and the consequences of base behavior, has traditionally striven to instill in its practitioners a strong sense of duty and professionalism, but it would be foolhardy to assume that all physicians are ethical, honest, or competent. It is always easy to spotlight anecdotal cases of deviant behavior: good news doesn't sell newspapers! So, we are bombarded with accounts of gross incompetence, greed, and fraud against both patients and institutions. Attempts to quantify the extent of such behavior, although frequently attempted by extrapolation, are nonetheless fraught with so many difficulties that they probably cannot be successful. Obviously, the medical profession would like to assume that the numbers are minimal.

That assumption, however, begs the question. If physicians are

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