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June 1983

Physician's Responsibility

Author Affiliations

Biloxi, MS

Arch Intern Med. 1983;143(6):1282-1285. doi:10.1001/archinte.1983.00350060214045

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To the Editor.  —The physician's responsibilities vis-à-vis nuclear weaponry are the same as those toward any other public health threat—to prevent the outbreak of disease, to minimize the extent of the epidemic (should it occur), and to treat its victims. I will discuss these three responsibilities.The first step toward preventing the "disease" is to recognize that an "outbreak" (a strategic nuclear exchange or all-out nuclear warfare) can occur. Nuclear warfare is a possibility. Dr Marmor (in the December Archives [1982;142:2262-2263]) and many others, however, have declared this idea "unthinkable." While I trust Marmor means "having extremely horrible effects that are highly unpleasant to contemplate," I fear that some use "unthinkable" to mean "extremely improbable"—which just simple is not true—or worse, "so unpleasant to contemplate that we should simply refuse to do so." Attitudes such as these represent highly maladaptive behavior that will result, along with the repression of other

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