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January 20, 1989

Caring for the Poor: The Altruism of Physicians

JAMA. 1989;261(3):379. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420030052016

To the Editor.—  I just finished reading the well-considered commentary "Medical Care for the Poor: No Magic Bullets" by Dr Ginzberg.1 His analysis of current shortcomings in the care of the indigent are, it seems, well researched, and he communicates the feeling that he has grappled with the problem and continues to do so. Though I am certain I have not thought as long or as hard, sometimes a simple opinion from a parochial source is able to shed light.First, in any consideration of health care planning there is a common major flaw: the altruism of the physicians is not relied on. You may say, "How can it be?" yet the centuries have demonstrated that the majority of physicians donate significant time and expense caring for the indigent. Here in Roanoke, Va, a free clinic is staffed voluntarily by local physicians, dentists, nurses, and health care workers. We