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September 23, 1974

Simulacra of Sickness

JAMA. 1974;229(13):1783-1784. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230510057028

The use of actors in teaching psychiatric principles to general practitioners has been previously reported and commented on in The Journal.1,2 Coached about the kind of personalities they were to assume in teaching specific psychiatric problems, these actors were interviewed by physicians in videotaped sessions of "unrehearsed" performances.

A recent editorial in the British Medical Journal3 comments on a workshop in make-believe patients conducted in London. Simulations of neurological, locomotor, and psychiatric diseases were particularly convincing. Thoracic and abdominal disorders with characteristic physical signs were also often adequately mimicked. The use of trained performers (at no negligible cost) would eliminate the embarrassments and inconveniences of bedside teaching on a reluctant patient or on one who is too ill to be disturbed.

With medical education going theatrical, should we not enlarge the stage to make room for the ballet? After all, we have already a cardiac rhythm disturbance known