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October 1, 1997

Do We Still Need Doctors?

Author Affiliations

Clinical Ethics Consultation Group Englewood, Colo

JAMA. 1997;278(13):1123. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550130097050

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


This thoughtful book is a literate and troubled search for the lost soul of doctoring. It feels as though the author could not restrain himself from spilling onto paper what he had observed as the paradoxes and contradictions, the triumphs and tragedies, of the practice of healing.

Then, taking us on an evolutionary journey from the earliest practitioners through the current state of the healing art, he polishes and adorns his impressions with apt quotations from commentators, crossing centuries and interweaving disciplines.

He explores what doctors did, what they do, and what they ought to do, noting the shift in emphasis, as medicine became more likely to cure, from the healer and the patient to the technology itself. With the doctor adding technical expertise, along with the pharmacist, nurse, and the nutritionist, does the doctor become simply one more instrument in the orchestra? Who will conduct? Who is responsible? Who