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First, I agree that the primary purpose of medicine is to relieve human suffering. But to accomplish that end, a physician has to assess the patient's condition and determine the best mode of therapy appropriate for the patient. Because Mrs D. was ignorant of her diagnosis of cancer, she was unable to know which course of therapy was best. Surely, most physicians would agree that Mrs D. would have had a better chance of a favorable outcome if she had consented to early surgical removal of her ulcerated stomach cancer!
Second, one of the reasons I wrote about Mrs D. was to bring to light the ever-present "cancer phobia" that exists in this country. One can never treat or cure cancer without first knowing about cancer. Mrs D. didn't know about her cancer, because her family decided she couldn't deal with that knowledge and defended that decision by proclaiming that
Garbitelli V. Poor Mrs D., Poor Medicine-Reply. Arch Intern Med. 1985;145(9):1744. doi:10.1001/archinte.1985.00360090220048
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