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January 7, 1983

A Barefoot Physician

JAMA. 1983;249(1):80. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03330250060033

He was a striking man, slender, with fine features, approximately 60 years of age, with a tan complexion and a gray, closely cropped beard. He sat upright in the hospital bed, with his legs crossed, and possessed an aura of surprising serenity.

"Who is that man?" I questioned the senior resident.

"Oh, him, he's a diabetic with a rotten toe. He is going to sign out AMA. Says he's a doctor from somewhere in the Middle East. Refuses surgery or antibiotics. I told him he is going to get septic and die if he's not treated."

I approached his bed and introduced myself as the attending physician for the ward. He smiled and in fluent English told me his name.

"Are you a physician?" I inquired.

"Yes, I am."

"Then why do you not want to be treated?"

"Ah, but I do want to have treatment."

"Then why do you