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March 27, 1981

Magic and Medicine

Author Affiliations

University of South Alabama Mobile

JAMA. 1981;245(12):1252. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03310370044028

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A visiting anthropologist was kind enough to conduct medicine rounds at our hospital. He spoke on healing magic as it is performed in India. He mentioned that the standard fee for curing anything was one chicken. He also pointed out that the shamans had a cure rate roughly equal to that of Western-trained physicians practicing in their own countries.

At question time the older physicians in the room were willing to agree that a faith in a physician's ability to cure was a part of their own practices. The younger physicians, the residents, and the students kept silent—I had a feeling that their thoughts were half "poppycock" and half "I hope I can get a CAT scan for my patient today."

Setting aside the question of whether technology is its own form of magic, I would propose that magic of the traditional kind is very much a part of medicine