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January 21, 1974

Stay of Execution: A Sort of Memoir

JAMA. 1974;227(3):330. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230160058031

How much should you tell a patient about his presumably fatal illness? This book may or may not help you make up your mind, but it will surely stimulate your thinking.

Stewart Alsop, a prominent political journalist, consulted his physician in July 1971 and was told the next day that he probably had acute myeloblastic leukemia and should enter the National Institutes of Health. There, his doctor said, "they know more about leukemia than anywhere else in the world." He did go to the National Institutes of Health promptly and remained under the care of one of their physicians for the next two years. Further tests cast some doubt on the diagnosis of acute myeloblastic leukemia, so he was not given the usual chemotherapy. Instead, he had repeated blood cell counts, marrow studies, biopsies, and occasional symptomatic treatment. It seemed impossible for the National Institutes of Health staff and numerous