The end of the golden age of doctoring

Int J Health Serv. 2002;32(2):379-416. doi: 10.2190/JL1D-21BG-PK2N-J0KD.


Eight interrelated reasons for the decline of the golden age of doctoring are discussed in this article. Major extrinsicfactors (generally outside the control of the profession) include (1) the changing nature of the state and loss of its partisan support for doctoring, (2) the bureaucratization (corporatization) of doctoring; (3) the emerging competitive threat from other health care workers; (4) the consequences of globalization and the information revolution; (5) the epidemiologic transition and changes in the public conception of the body; and (6) changes in the doctor-patient relationship and the erosion of patient trust. Major intrinsic factors are (7) the weakening of physicians' labor market position through oversupply; and (8) the fragmentation or weakening of the physicians, union (AMA). Despite the recent sociopolitical transformation of modern U.S. medicine, our thinking remains wedded to a now inadequate theoretical approach. A future sociology of the professions can no longer overlook now pervasive macrostructural influences on provider behavior (corporate dominance). Until these influences are appropriately recognized and incorporated in social analyses, most policies designed to restore the professional ideal have little chance of success.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Clinical Medicine / economics
  • Clinical Medicine / organization & administration
  • Clinical Medicine / trends*
  • Communism
  • Consumer Advocacy
  • Economic Competition / trends
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Internet
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians / supply & distribution
  • Politics
  • Practice Management, Medical / economics
  • Practice Management, Medical / organization & administration
  • Practice Management, Medical / trends*
  • Professional Autonomy
  • Professional Corporations
  • Social Change*
  • Sociology, Medical / trends*
  • United States