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June 6, 1986

Doctor's Orders

Author Affiliations

Harvard Medical School Boston

JAMA. 1986;255(21):2896. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370210063013

To the Editor.—  Professor Robert Veatch's1 editorial on doctor's orders contains several questionable assumptions about the nature of medical practice and language use. His first sentence talks about the "evolution of more responsive and humane care," which implies that, thus far, care has not been "responsive and humane" or, at least, has not been as responsive and humane as it should have been. This unwarranted implication strikes at the core of what physicians have thought of themselves as doing for centuries: providing responsive and humane care. Certainly, medical care in the past, just as in the present or future, can be criticized for failing to meet its ideals. However, the "do not resuscitate" order by itself is unlikely to make medical care more responsive and humane. Rather, we need to understand what it means to give "responsive and humane care." Understanding the reasons and attitudes that determine what is