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March 13, 1978

Suppose We Die Young, Late in Life?

Author Affiliations

DeKalb General Hospital Decatur, Ga

JAMA. 1978;239(11):1036. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03280380036008

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To the Editor.—  As a child I heard often that "if wishes were horses, beggars would ride." It was therefore with a disturbing sense of déjà vu that I read the COMMENTARY "Suppose We Died Young, Late in Life...?" by Wynder and Kristein.First, the medical profession is urged to begin work now on "reducing preventable chronic disease, eg, lung cancer, cancer of the upper alimentary tract, chronic bronchitis, coronary heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver, and emphysema." True, if the populace would stop smoking, cut down on drinking, avoid overeating, and get more exercise, we would see far less of these diseases. For years every clinician I know has been urging these steps for his patients. Yet as free Americans we insist on what some have called our constitutional right to be damned fools; improvement of these habits will require far more drastic powers than physicians are likely to