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A Piece of My Mind
April 15, 1983

Medicine and War—A Metaphor

Author Affiliations

Hershey, Pa

JAMA. 1983;249(15):2091. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03330390083043

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James Childress is a doctor of philosophy and a thoughtful fellow. At a recent meeting, he suggested that war was a metaphor for medicine. Now Dr Childress has a long reputation as a medical ethicist and careful writer about many dilemmas in medicine, but I thought his pronouncement strange. He then related to me examples of the diction of medicine that illustrated his point well.

Consider the following examples:

We declare WAR on heart disease, cancer, and stroke.

Our chief national medical officer is the SURGEON GENERAL who leads the PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE CORPS.

Patients suffer from ATTACKS of disease.

We LAUNCH investigations by ordering a BATTERY of tests to define the OFFENDING organism or weakness in the body's

DEFENSE system. An ARMY of specialists might help us with a COMBINED ATTACK in the STRUGGLE to survive against the RAVAGES of disease.

We scour the therapeutic ARMAMENTARIUM to define the

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