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August 10, 1984

Mystique, Medical Training, and Clinical Excellence-Reply

Author Affiliations

University of Colorado Health Sciences Center Denver

JAMA. 1984;252(6):768. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350060020018

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In Reply.—  As espoused by Drs Cass and Berger in their letters, striving for excellence and perfection in the care of patients is a goal that all physicians can support. The belief, however, that such striving cannot be undertaken with the greatest vigor and dedication in the context of the realization of the fallibility of physicians as human beings may be the core of the problem. With such a highly selected group of professionals and such vigorous training, why are 10% of physicians estimated to be impaired? The acknowledgment of the fallibility of physicians should not be a threat to physicians unless they believe they are infallible. Moreover, it should in no way lower their standards of excellence to provide the best care available to their patients. Rather, if such feelings of infallibility are involved in the genesis of the high percentage of impaired physicians, then the recognition that physicians