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December 3, 1982

Brief Encounter

JAMA. 1982;248(21):2893. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330210073044

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It was a chilly morning in Manhattan late in June. I was on my way to the office when I was stopped by a middle-aged black man leaning on a stick he was using as a cane. Although he was dressed in a suit and tie, his clothes were dirty and wrinkled. There was a discrepancy between his appearance and the precise, elegant manner of his speech.

"Please tell me where the nearest hospital is, aside from this one," he asked, pointing to the Manhattan hospital that was just across the street.

I told him that the nearest hospital was Bellevue, a good mile and a half away by bus and subway. Since he was obviously in pain, I suggested that he try the hospital across the street.

"They would not take care of me. They claim that Bellevue is closer to where I live. But it is not closer