Chapter 11 SOCI.docx - The Rise(and Fall of the Medical...

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The Rise (and Fall?) of the Medical Profession Doctors have a great amount of social power, political power, and prestige for a variety of reasons: Doctors offer a universally valued product— health and longevity ; there is a limited number of doctors due to the extensive education and training required to become a doctor and the strict regulation of the profession; doctors are very concerned with their standing among their peers; people trust doctors with very personal information and expect individualized treatment; and doctors use specific props and scripts to assert their power. Doctors have traditionally had the power to set their own pay rates and to recommend treatments and follow-up visits at their discretion. This latter power contributed to a problem called supplier-induced demand . Doctors also have the power to prescribe medications, and they are largely a self-regulating group through the work of the American Medical Association and state medical boards. Doctors have not always been highly valued in society, but since the eighteenth century their power and prestige have steadily grown as they got much better at treating illness and injury (through advances in technology and knowledge) and as they banded together as professionals and developed licensing systems. In addition, doctors assumed a dominant role in their relationship with hospitals because they were the ones bringing in new patients. In the past 20 years or so, doctors have found some of their powers restricted or diminished . As health-care costs have skyrocketed, new ways of paying for health care have emerged that restrict the ability of doctors to set their own fees.
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