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Student JAMA
January 7, 2004

Ethical Issues in Medical Education

JAMA. 2004;291(1):118. doi:10.1001/jama.291.1.118-b

Last week, while I sat studying pathology at a neighborhood cafe, a woman walked up and waved her index finger in front of me. "You're a med student, right?" I nodded. "I cut my finger with a razor," she said. I examined the cut on her finger as if it were a rare curiosity. The cut was as erythematous as most mild lacerations. I could not readily identify any foreign bodies. I asked, astutely, if it hurt. She nodded. I said, "Looks OK." She thanked me and left. For five minutes, I felt aglow in godliness. Then, I panicked. Who was I, unable to distinguish a Mallory body from a keratin pearl, to know when a finger looks OK? A differential erupted in my mind, ranging from potentially lethal infections (tetanus? hep C?) to other oft-overlooked diagnoses like von Willebrand deficiency (who knew how much she bled?) or amyloidosis.

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