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Consumers' Rights in Medicine

Alfred Soffer, MD
Arch Intern Med. 1978;138(6):905. doi:10.1001/archinte.1978.03630310005003.
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Involvement" is the magic word. Buyers are urged to join forces to ensure the safety and true value of consumer goods. Citizens are enjoined to become conversant with industrial problems such as water and air pollution. It is not surprising that this tide of enlightened self-interest now laps at the shores of medical practice. In today's parlance the patient is the "consumer" and the physician is the "provider of services." Presumably it is the privilege of the patient-consumer to know myriad details of the "product he buys" so that he may exercise a decision-making role in the dispensation of these services. Patients are encouraged to ask searching questions about diagnostic procedures and therapeutic modalities based on the supposition that they can then choose various options with a full understanding of the potential benefits and dangers.

Are these trends constructive or destructive? Lay education is not a new phenomenon. Nearly three


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