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First do no harm; then try to prevent it
  1. Geoffrey Hughes
  1. Correspondence to:
 G Hughes The Emergency Department
 Royal Adelaide Hospital, North Terrace, Adelaide 5000, Australia;cchdhb{at}

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First do no harm, “primum non nocere”, is a doctrine as old as medicine itself, frequently but probably inaccurately attributed to Hippocrates, the wise old man of our profession.

Prevention of injury and illness is another significant aspect of medical practice. The profound impacts it has had on society, largely taken for granted in the industrialised world but less so elsewhere, are extraordinary; immunisation, sanitation, screening programmes, road safety initiatives—the list goes on—have changed our lives to degrees unimaginable even 30, let alone 100 years ago. Although it is an important component of our profession it is underplayed in both training and our day-to-day activity. It is encouraging to know that it will be part of our new curriculum, despite the time constraints and rationalisation imposed by the modernising medical careers platform. This is consistent with the philosophy of the World Health Organisation1 which emphasises the role that doctors have …

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  • Competing interests: None declared.