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September 14, 1984

The Medical Record— A Dialogue?

Author Affiliations

Palos Verdes Estates, Calif

JAMA. 1984;252(10):1289. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350100019022

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What is more personal than the right to live or the right to die? Isn't it ironic that our society, which champions individual human rights, now wants to legislate these rights?

Yet modern science has blurred the borders of life and death. The right to live and the right to die have become ethical dilemmas. The same technology that has brought tremendous relief from suffering has in other instances created suffering through the loss of human dignity. Still—health, life, and death are personal experiences, and how a life is lived is determined from within one's self. The quality of that life is a personal responsibility. Meaning and purpose are determined individually. The appropriateness of life and death must somehow remain individual. Toward this end, I would like to propose that the perspective of the patient—a statement of how he sees his own illness—become part of the medical record. This statement