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P&S Journal

P&S Journal: Fall 1996, Vol.16, No.3
Letters / E-Mail

Dear Editor,

I thought I recognized myself in the photo [cover, Fall 1995], but it would have been 10 years later than what Dr. Humphreys determined by identifying Dr. Esselstyn quite positively [Letters, Winter 1996]. I should have known some of the other faces if it were I, and their clothing did seem a little more formal than what we wore in 1937-8.

It was very pleasant to recognize Dr. Whipple, and Drs. Stout and Meleney were professors at my time. Erna Goetsch and Dorothy Hager were classmates, and I postulated them seated in front of "me" [third row from bottom, last person on right], but I bow to Dr. Humphreys' more accurate ID.

James R. Otto'39
San Antonio, Texas

Dear Editor,

IPPNW (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) was awarded the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts in opposition to nuclear weapons and nuclear war. The prize was jointly accepted by Drs. Bernard Lown (USA) and Evgeni I. Chasov (USSR), the co-presidents of IPPNW. Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), the U.S. chapter of IPPNW, shared the prize with the other national chapters. PSR's efforts that were recognized in 1985 ["Physicians for Social Responsibility," P&S Students, Spring 1996] were not directed against violence in general or gun violence as a public health issue.

Charles B. Brill'61
Merion, Pa.

Dear Editor,

The letter from J. Courtland Robinson [Letters, Spring 1996] well demonstrates how the ethical norms of medical practice change over time. In the late 1950s, as he relates, P&S Professor Virginia Apgar transported stillborn babies to an AMA meeting at Madison Square Garden so that physicians could practice their intubation skills. Robinson notes that this activity was "a typical example of [Apgar's] interest in teaching and improving patient care." It should come as little surprise that the use of stillborn infants for this purpose garnered praise in the 1950s, an era that universally celebrated both the medical profession and breakthroughs in medical technology.

Today, however, such a practice would be called into question by both physicians and society in general. Although physician education remains of critical importance, ethical standards have changed. The bioethics revolution of the past 30 years has taught us to respect the autonomy of individual patients, rather than using them as a means to an end. In this spirit, a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine persuasively argued that physicians-in-training could briefly practice techniques on recently deceased patients only if a specific teaching protocol was in place and informed consent was obtained from the family. Surely, Apgar herself would have praised such developments had she been practicing medicine in the 1990s.

Barron H. Lerner'86
P&S Assistant Professor of Medicine

Dear Editor, Thought the enclosed would amuse and amaze the present crop of students.

William G. Cahan'39
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

copyright ©, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center

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