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February 10, 1989

Alcoholism as Willful Misconduct

Author Affiliations

Silver Spring, Md

Silver Spring, Md

JAMA. 1989;261(6):864-865. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420060068032

To the Editor.—  I oppose the suggestion by Mr Seessel1 that JAMA readers write to their senators and representatives requesting that the willful misconduct label be removed from alcoholism as I believe the Supreme Court's decision on April 20 was a good one.The fact that the Court relied heavily on the writings of University of California philosophy professor Herbert Fingarette's book Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease is a strength, not the weakness intimated by Mr Seessel. Simply calling alcoholism a disease does not make it one, even if it assists in creating sobriety.Advocates of the disease model of alcoholism love to use diabetes as a metaphor to describe the behavior of an alcoholic. The analogy is not reciprocal. A diabetic is not like an alcoholic.A person does not will the onset of diabetes, essential hypertension, or the presence or absence of a