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October 18, 1965

A Survey of the Law of Medical Practice: IV. Negligence in the Practice of Medicine

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

JAMA. 1965;194(3):281-287. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090160059015

There is probably no subject in the field of legal medicine about which there is more concern and more misunderstanding than the legal action called "malpractice." To the average physician "the word malpractice is almost synonymous with quack, and its very mention will cause the physician to be wary. His reputation, his livelihood, his social position, and the entire medical profession are threatened when any suspicion of malpractice is aired... Malpractice charges are, to a physician, what disbarment proceedings are to a lawyer."1

That this represents the feelings of the medical profession cannot be argued. Little objective evidence exists, however, to indicate the reasons for these feelings, and while the current norms of our profession can be characterized as an "aspiration to make the practice of medicine a rational, scientific endeavor,"2 attempts to examine the issues involved in "malpractice" actions in an objective fashion are relatively rare. It