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JAMA Revisited
July 3, 2018

The Sin of Treating Symptoms

JAMA. 2018;320(1):98. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.12446

Originally Published July 6, 1918 | JAMA. 1918;71(1):9- 10.

The seven deadly sins were enumerated before the days of modern medicine or specialism. The sin of omission would then have been classed as venial; but now, omission is often deadly to our patients, and might be classed by modern moralists as unpardonable.

This paper is intended to report some groups of cases that have been improperly diagnosed by observing leading symptoms without taking the patient as a diagnostic problem and viewing him as a whole. Medicine is no longer a one man’s job—it is team work. It is, indeed, rare for one to be able to diagnose an obscure case alone. Team work with its proper limitations is our hope for the best results. Diagnostic units are now essential. There is much truth in the saying that only the very poor and the very rich get proper medical attention. The poor may go to a well organized hospital, where a department chief collects all required data, proper diagnosis is made, and required treatment instituted.

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