The periodic health examination in its application as a screening procedure in asymptomatic, ostensibly healthy persons is explored with a focus on the following issues: (a) the impact on health, (b) the content of a beneficial health examination, and (c) the effect of the examination on the physician-patient relation. The application discussed is distinct from use of the examination as a tool for diagnosis, prognosis, or therapeutic planning for patients with a specific illness. The discussion also shows a relatively recent change in the goal for the clinical assessment. There has been a shift in emphasis from establishing a diagnosis as the main outcome event of the periodic "checkup" to the identification of an intervention of value to the patient. Evidence from various studies that throw some light on related questions is considered. Special ethical issues surrounding the unsolicited medical assessment are identified. Finally, some ground rules for decisions about the periodic health examination are proposed.