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April 1, 1974

Hard Cases and Hard Law

Author Affiliations

University of Texas School of Law Austin

JAMA. 1974;228(1):25. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230260019006

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To the Editor.—  The medical profession is under attack—hard cases—and unless it cleans its own house, the public will do so for it—bad law. I want to clarify, if possible, the scrambling of the use of the aphorism, in which "hard cases" means hard because of judicial sympathy for one of the parties, and in which "bad law" means a precedent that, if applied, would produce difficulty for people other than the parties in the first instance. As used in an editorial (226:562, 1973), a hard case is one in which there is a serious accusation, and bad law is a harsh remedy applied to the person accused.My main point, put briefly, is this: The medical profession is, indeed, under heavy attack these days. There is no doubt that the continuing nature of the attack has engendered some paranoia-like attitudes throughout the profession and in the medical establishment. These