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August 17, 1994

Deadly Choices: Coping With Health Risks in Everyday Life

JAMA. 1994;272(7):568. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03520070088051

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The appetite of the American public for medical information is insatiable. The need is met by an unremitting torrent that fills our airwaves, television screens, bookshelves, and supermarket checkout stands. The content is matched to every taste and educational level. Sensational stories of miracle cures, sex changes, and monstrosities fill the tabloids. Sexual aberrations and dysfunctional behavior are the staples of daytime television. Bookstore shelves groan with the weight of treatises on nutrition, victimization, and self-esteem. No end of advice is available to the afflicted on how to overcome a variety of chronic illnesses. On a slow news day, a physician can always be located to assert that the moon is made of green cheese.

At a more sophisticated level, newspapers, magazines, and television news broadcasts are filled with reports of new research discoveries emanating from press conferences, papers presented at scientific meetings, or summaries of articles from selected medical

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