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Ethical Imperatives and the New Physician: IV. Responding to the Aging Patient: Presented to the Graduating Class of Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine, Kirksville, Missouri

Publication Date
  • Ethics
  • Medical
  • Health Services For The Aged
  • Quality Of Life
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Medicine
  • Political Science


Commencement Speech # 4 June 6, 1988 Ethical Imperatives and the New Physician IV. Responding to the Aging Patient Commencement Address by C. Everett Koop, MD, ScD Surgeon General Of the U.S. Public Health Service U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Presented to the Graduating class of Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine Kirksville, Missouri June 6, 1988 I began by acknowledging that I knew I was in the heartland of osteopathic medicine for which I felt a special kinship because of its consistent and abiding concern for the role of the family in the context of good patient care. The more practiced I become, the more I am aware of the many subtle ways in which our system of health care has put considerable and often unreasonable stress on the family unit. And that means also on the family-centered practitioner. However, my major concern in this address was the reaction of young physicians with the aging population. That should have made sense to the graduating class because in fifteen or twenty years a substantial portion of the American population, close to 20 per cent, would be over the age of 65. The fastest growing segment would be over the age of 85. I assumed that access to physician care would be generally problem-free for older people in the next century, as it was at the time of the commencement talk. That has turned out to be the case, except that managed care did cause a little blip on the screen and the cost of prescription drugs - now a political football, at the time of this writing, 2003 - has put many oldsters in the position of taking their medications only half as frequently as prescribed, or cutting out food in order to take it all the time. We, as physicians, would always like to make our judgments solely on the basis of what is good medicine, but physicians are being asked more and more to slow down or reverse altogether the rising costs of health care. Those arguments usually are for the patient in th

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