The patient-physician relationship has undergone major and increasingly rapid changes in the past 40 years. It has moved from a relationship based on physician paternalism, through one of patient autonomy, to one where the patient and the physician's authority and control over the patient's care are facing significant threats from outside sources. In this article, we examine the historical and social forces that have contributed to these changes and the effects these forces have had on the traditional models of the patient-physician relationship. We present arguments to support our proposal for a patient-physician alliance in the community based on mutual education of physician and patient about health and illness, values and persons, social responsibility, beneficence, trust, and a degree of paternalism. We believe such an alliance offers the best hope for patients and their physicians to regain the initiative in guiding the evolution of health care in a way that preserves the essentials of the therapeutic relationship.