Morris Fishbein

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Morris Fishbein
Morris Fishbein LC-DIG-hec-24833.jpg
Born(1889-07-22)July 22, 1889
DiedSeptember 27, 1976(1976-09-27) (aged 87)
EmployerJournal of the American Medical Association
Spouse(s)Anna Mantel Fishbein

Morris Fishbein M.D. (July 22, 1889 – September 27, 1976) was a physician who became the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) from 1924 to 1950.

Fishbein is vilified in the chiropractic community due to his principal role in founding and propagating the campaign to suppress and end chiropractic as a profession.[1]


He was born in St. Louis, Missouri on July 22, 1889, son of an immigrant Jewish peddlar who moved his family to Indianapolis. He studied at Rush Medical College where he graduated in 1913. Fishbein served for 18 months as a resident physician at the Durand Hospital for Infectious Diseases.[2]

He joined George H. Simmons, editor of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), as an assistant and advanced to the editorship in 1924, a position he maintained until 1950. He was on the cover of TIME on June 21, 1937. In 1938, along with the AMA, he was indicted for violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.[3] The AMA was convicted and fined $2,500 but Fishbein was acquitted.[4]

In 1961 he became the founding Editor of Medical World News, a magazine for doctors. In 1970 he endowed the Morris Fishbein Center for the study of the history of science and medicine at the University of Chicago. Its first activity was a lecture series taking place in May of that year. Allen G. Debus served as director of the Center from 1971 to 1977. Fishbein also endowed a chair at the university for the same subject, a chair taken up by Debus in 1978. The 7th floor in Shoreland Hall at the University of Chicago was known as Fishbein House, using the Fishbein name as its namesake.

He died on September 27, 1976 in Chicago, Illinois.[5] He was survived by two daughters, Barbara Fishbein Friedell and Marjorie Clavey, and his son, Justin M. Fishbein.

Anti-chiropractic campaign[edit]

Medicine's opposition to chiropractic was at its strongest under the leadership of Morris Fishbein. Fishbein as Secretary of the American Medical Association from 1924 to 1949, began what became a 50 year anti-chiropractic campaign in both professional publications and the public media. Fishbein called chiropractors "rabid dogs" and referred to them as "playful and cute..but killers." He portrayed chiropractors as members of an unscientific cult. [6]

In 1949 the AMA removed Fishbein but continued to wage its anti-chiropractic campaign.[7]

What began as Fishbein's campaign to end chiropractic was brought to court in 1980 as The Wilkes Suit; where initially the AMA and other defendants were questionably found not guilty of all charges. That decision, however, was overturned and a new trial was ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals in February 1983.[8]

Judge Susan Getzendanner found the AMA and others guilty of an illegal conspiracy against the chiropractic profession in September of 1987, ordering a permanent injunction against the AMA, and forcing them to print the courts findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Several other of the defendants settled out of court helping to pay for the chiropractors legal expenses and donating to a chiropractic non-profit home for disabled children, Kentuckiana Children's Center.[9]

This decision was upheld in the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1990 and again by the U.S. Supreme Court that same year.[10]


He was also notable due to his affinity for exposing quacks, notably the goat-gland surgeon John R. Brinkley, and campaigning for regulation of medical devices. His book Fads and Quackery in Healing, debunks homeopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic, Christian Science, radionics and other dubious medical practices.[11]

In 1938, Fishbein authored a two-part article, Modern Medical Charlatans in the journal Hygeia which criticized the quackery of Brinkley.[12] Brinkley sued Fishbein for libel but lost the case.[13] The jury found that Brinkley "should be considered a charlatan and a quack in the ordinary, well-understood meaning of those words." Fishbein responded that "the decision is a great victory for honest scientific medicine, for the standards of education and conduct established by the American Medical Association."[13]

Fishbein was critical of the activities of Mary Baker Eddy. He considered her a fraud and plagiarist.[14]

Selected publications[edit]

  • The Medical Follies (1925)
  • The New Medical Follies (1927)
  • Shattering Health Superstitions (1930)
  • Fads and Quackery in Healing (1932)
  • Frontiers of Medicine (1933)
  • Your Diet and Your Health (1937)
  • A History of the American Medical Association 1847 to 1947 (1947)
  • Medical Writing: The Technic and the Art (1957)
  • Morris Fishbein, M.D.: An Autobiography (1969)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Donahue, (1996), 16(1):39-49.
  2. ^ "Morris Fishbein: transcript of an interview interviewed by Charles O. Jackson," (Interview). March 12, 1968.
  3. ^ "Medicine: A. M. A. Indicted". Time Magazine. 2 Jan 1939.
  4. ^ Carl F Ameringer (2008). The Healthcare Revolution (PDF). University of California Press. p. 35. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 May 2010. Retrieved 8 July 2010.
  5. ^ "Dr. Morris Fishbein Dead at 87. Former Editor of A.M.A. Journal". Associated Press in the New York Times. September 28, 1976. Retrieved 2009-07-18. Dr. Morris Fishbein, a prominent medical authority and for many years the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, died today. He was 87 years old.
  6. ^ Gristani, (2016), The AMA Conspiracy Against Chiropractic
  7. ^ Gristani, (2016), The AMA Conspiracy Against Chiropractic
  8. ^ Gristani, (2016), The AMA Conspiracy Against Chiropractic
  9. ^ Gristani, (2016), The AMA Conspiracy Against Chiropractic
  10. ^ Gristani, (2016), The AMA Conspiracy Against Chiropractic
  11. ^ Tobey, James A. (1933). Fads and Quackery in Healing. American Journal of Public Health and the Nation's Health 23 (3): 295–296.
  12. ^ "The Case of Brinkley Vs. Fishbein: Proceedings of a Libel Suit Based on an Article Published in Hygeia". JAMA (journal).
  13. ^ a b Lee, Alton R. (2002). The Bizarre Careers of John R. Brinkley. University of Kentucky Press. pp. 211-218. ISBN 0-8131-2232-5
  14. ^ Hudson, Robert P. (1983). Disease and Its Control: The Shaping of Modern Thought. Greenwood Press. p. 70.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]