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May 15, 1991

What Kind of Life: The Limits of Medical Progress

JAMA. 1991;265(19):2591-2592. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460190171045

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.

Abstract

The focus of this work by Daniel Callahan is individualism vs the good of the community as played out on the wards of American medicine.

He is concerned about a runaway health care caused by the excessive expectations and demands of given patients to restore and maintain health, an aging population that dominates this claim, and a proliferation of medical science and technology that fuels the pursuit of health but never quite satisfies it. He warns that if these activities are unchecked, increasingly we will sacrifice other important social goods. He questions the wisdom of this quest for medical progress and the inordinate place of maintaining health in our scale of individual and social values.

He sees these problems as inadequately addressed by developing new schemes to reorganize health services; by reining in the profits of physicians, health care institutions, or manufacturers of technology; or by the myriad other regulatory

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