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November 16, 1979

The Broader View of Medical Ethics

Author Affiliations

Harvard Medical School Boston

JAMA. 1979;242(20):2179. doi:10.1001/jama.1979.03300200011006

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To the Editor.—  Mr Cousins' view of medical ethics is intriguing and even compelling, but I wonder if it automatically invests the "doctor" with undeserved wisdom. Of course, any physician is free to influence any aspect of public life or policy as long as he does so in the role of a private citizen, but when he uses the mantle of "physician" to give his views special authority, especially as a moral or ethical champion, he may be misleading the public. Our country is full of self-anointed prophets, all too ready to advise the public on matters of national policy, international politics, and philosophical and religious matters. There is nothing in the standard medical curriculum that gives physicians a special insight into philosophy, religion, economics, or international politics. If he steps outside of the medical arena to argue such matters of public policy or national defense, he should not drag