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February 11, 1974

The Patient Needs

JAMA. 1974;227(6):647-648. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230190039010

Late summer 1973 found the famous columnist Sydney J. Harris enduring a protracted stay in a highly regarded teaching hospital. There he underwent a major surgical operation, and, as might have been expected, he later wrote about his experiences in a series of three articles published in Chicago Daily News on Nov 5, 6, and 7, 1973. He stated that he knew his odds of eluding death and of recovery were high, thanks to medical advances, that his own care was rather better than average, "yet even this—with the best will in the world on the part of the top people— was only haphazardly translated down to the lower levels, where the quality of care depended on who happened to be on duty at what hour." Most poignant of all, Mr. Harris observed that during his convalescence, when his psychological needs for attention were strongest, his treatment was most impersonal