Physicians Confront the Apocalypse:  The American Medical Profession and the Threat of Nuclear War

Paul Boyer, PhD
JAMA. 1985;254(5):633-643. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360050071029.
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IN THE resurgence of nuclear weapons activism and cultural awareness that swept the United States in the early 1980s, physicians figured prominently. The Australian pediatrician Helen Caldicott gained national visibility as president of the 30,000-member Physicians for Social Responsibility. Dean Howard Hiatt, of the Harvard School of Public Health; psychiatrist John Mack, of Harvard Medical School; H. Jack Geiger, of the City College of New York School of Biomedical Education; and Yale psychiatrist Robert Lifton were influential voices in the antinuclear cause. In The Final Epidemic: Physicians and Scientists on Nuclear War,1 and Last Aid: The Medical Dimensions of Nuclear War,2 medical leaders spoke out on this issue. The Journal of the American Medical Association published major articles on aspects of the subject, including the role of the medical profession in preventing nuclear holocaust.3,4

This article seeks to place this activism in historical context. Focusing on the


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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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