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Invited Commentary
June 7, 2018

Old Barbers, Young Doctors, and Tonsillectomy

Author Affiliations
  • 1Otolaryngology, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Published online June 7, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2018.0622

When tonsillectomy was a right of childhood passage, choosing an experienced surgeon may have been the best way to avoid the uncommon, but occasionally fatal, hemorrhage associated with the procedure. Franklin’s old adage “beware of the young doctor and the old barber” was sage advice for families seeking a surgeon, and what better place to find one than the Tonsil Hospital in New York city, where 50 experienced doctors operated on thousands of children annually for 3 decades.1 Yet even in this bygone era of surgical excess the hospital’s director, Robert Fowler, wisely noted “…it is very likely that in the future [physicians] will be able to provide rational guides which will eventually be accepted by the public” (emphasis original).2

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