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Caring for the Poor

Oscar W. Clarke, MD; John Glasson, MD; Allison M. August; Charles H. Epps Jr, MD; Victoria N. Ruff, MD; Craig H. Kliger, MD; Charles W. Plows, MD; George T. Wilkins Jr, MD; James H. Cosgriff Jr, MD; Kirk B. Johnson, JD; David Orentlicher, MD, JD; Robert B. Conley, MD, JD
JAMA. 1993;269(19):2533-2537. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500190077039.
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DESPITE the fact that the United States is one of the most affluent countries in the world, a significant portion of its citizens have inadequate access to medical care.1,2 While the barriers to obtaining health care are numerous, perhaps the most difficult hurdle to overcome is the lack of financial resources to pay for it. Although there appears to be a growing consensus that all people should receive basic health care, there is little agreement on how to achieve or finance this goal or even how to define it.3

This report examines the individual medical practitioner's ethical obligation to treat the poor. Because much of the recent attention has focused on broader societal obligations and systematic reform, the role of the individual has been overshadowed. The American Medical Association (AMA) has long recognized an ethical obligation of physicians to assume some individual responsibility for making health care available


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