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March 29, 1976

Latrogenic Denial of Illness

Author Affiliations

St Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center of New York New York

JAMA. 1976;235(13):1324. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03260390010002

To the Editor.—  In connection with Brown's account of Noah Webster's interest in the medical profession (234:178, 1975), I would like to focus on Webster's satirical treatment of the doctor-patient relationship, with special reference to a cure-all medication. The deceiving physician would have patients believe in its benefits, "and if people believe themselves cured, or the severity of their disorders mitigated by your prescription, why should they not be as happy as if they were really assisted?" The "imaginary" benefits mentioned by Webster were based on the intention to have the patient see himself well, when in fact he is ill, in contrast to the prescribing of medication with cure-all claims when the patient was probably expected subsequently to decry the medicine as having failed him.The especially interesting feature in this account of Webster's satire is the iatrogenic induction of denial of illness, which in some instances can eventually