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State Board of Medical Examiners of New Jersey v. Plager

Decided: July 20, 1937.

STATE BOARD OF MEDICAL EXAMINERS OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-PROSECUTOR,
v.
MAX PLAGER, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



On certiorari.

For the prosecutor, David T. Wilentz, attorney-general, and John F. Bruther, assistant attorney-general.

For the respondent, A. Lawrence Plager.

Before Justices Bodine, Heher and Perskie.

Perskie

The opinion of the court was delivered by

PERSKIE, J. The question requiring decision in this cause is whether defendant, not a licensed physician, by taking blood pressure, diagnosed a physical condition in violation of section 8 of chapter 271, Pamph. L. 1915.

This section, so far as is applicable here, provides as follows:

"Any person shall be regarded as practicing medicine and surgery within the meaning of this act, who * * * holds himself or herself out as being able to diagnose * * * any human disease, pain, injury, deformity or physical condition,

or who shall either offer or undertake by any mean or methods to diagnose * * * any human disease, pain, injury, deformity or physical condition * * *.' (Italics supplied.)

Defendant leased premises on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, wherein he installed a sphygmomanometer (a blood pressure machine), which he represented would disclose the blood pressure of any person upon whom it was used. At a charge of ten cents, any passerby who so desired, could enter the premises, seat himself upon a chair in full view of those who chanced to be present and submit to the taking of his blood pressure. In the sense only that defendant used a sphygmomanometer, bandaged the arm, applied the stethoscope, he appeared to go through the same process as would a licensed physician in taking blood pressure. He announced the registered result, and that result could then be compared with the normal pressure as shown by a chart prominently displayed on the premises. It is clear that, other than an occasional statement that the pressure disclosed was high or low, defendant made no comment as to the effect of, or treatment for, the blood pressure as indicated and announced by him. Does such conduct constitute a diagnosis of a disease or of a physical condition -- by any means or methods -- within the intendment of the act in question? The learned trial judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Atlantic county, who presided without a jury, found that it did not. He adjudged defendant not guilty. A judgment was entered upon that verdict. We granted certiorari.

First: It is a well settled principle in construing legislation that common words are to be taken in their ordinary significance. Evening Journal Association v. State Board of Assessors, 47 N.J.L. 36; Hackensack Trust Co. v. Hackensack, 116 Id. 343; 184 A. 408. Thus for example, we "analyze' a problem, we "construe' limitations, we "interpret' words, we "expound' theories, we "diagnose' a disease, or the good or ill health of a person. Obviously, it first becomes necessary to determine whether abnormal blood ...


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