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December 2, 1974

The Legal Systems in the United States

JAMA. 1974;230(9):1327-1328. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03240090063037

THE purpose of any legal system is to provide a framework within which members of society may co-exist as peaceably as possible. Further, law is used to enforce the minimum value system that the government considers necessary for group order, and to establish the freedoms, if any, that the political philosophy prevailing in the nation guarantees to the inhabitants. While the world's legal systems are widely different results of divergent philosophies, the purpose of the legal systems is usually quite similar.

Legal systems tend to adopt a rather negative view of human behavior. They restrict undesirable, but do not usually reward desirable and ethical behavior. If a citizen of the United States makes fraudulent statements on his income tax returns, he may well go to prison. If a surgeon leaves a hemostat in a patient's abdomen and the patient chooses to sue, the surgeon will probably be required to pay