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Professional Dominance in Medicine

Donald W. Light

Subject Medicine
Sociology » Sociology of Health, Aging, and Medicine

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Professional dominance is a theory about professionalization and a profession's relation to society that implies that this relationship is out of balance. It thus opens up issues of trust, exploitation of patients and society, suppression of competing groups, subordination of allied professions, and escalation of costs. The term is inherently less neutral than “professionalism” or the study of professions in society. It is largely used in literature on the medical profession in modern times. Eliot Freidson developed the concept and theory of professional dominance in 1970 in a book of that title. He also detailed its dynamics and pathologies in a second 1970 book, Profession of Medicine . His overall argument is that an occupation with valued and complex esoteric knowledge and skills strives to get special legal and institutional privileges from the state and society more generally, so that it can become a profession. This gives it critical powers, such as exclusive rights of licensure and control over its domain of work, which it tries to define as broadly as possible. Other exclusive rights and powers include prescribing controlled substances, admitting patients to hospitals, ordering tests and procedures, putting patients into a death-like state, cutting into their bodies, excusing people from work, enabling people to receive service and financial benefits, and exempting people ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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