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May 4, 1963

Physicians and Morality

Author Affiliations

Rochester, Minn.

JAMA. 1963;184(5):430. doi:10.1001/jama.1963.03700180156022

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To the Editor:  —Dr. Shanbrom's recent communication (JAMA182:856 [Nov 24] 1962) deserves underlining. Preoccupied with the mechanics of treatment and the niceties of physiologic activity, physicians tend to ignore or distort the meaning of life and to misinterpret their obligations as medical practitioners. Life is so obviously more than movement of blood, intactness of reflex arcs, and existence of a particular composition for intracellular fluid.While, in our preoccupation with treatment, we try to pull another rabbit out of the hat, we isolate the dying patient from his friends and relatives. As a consequence of such last-ditch efforts, physicians and nurses are almost the only ones who see people die anymore. Probably in part because of this, laymen have the idea that dying is a dreadful thing, to be delayed at all costs. And what are these costs? They are parts of the lives of everyone else—physicians, nurses,

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