Professionals Who Lost Their Virtue

By Sardar, Ziauddin | New Statesman (1996), July 10, 2000 | Go to article overview

Professionals Who Lost Their Virtue


Sardar, Ziauddin, New Statesman (1996)


Doctors and lawyers base their right to self-regulation on their moral superiority. The claim no longer stands up, argues

The professions have become increasingly prone to professional fouls. Trust, competence and moral integrity -- the conventional trademarks of "the professions"--have evaporated. Hardly a day goes by without horror stories involving doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, even members of the clergy. We are beginning to realise that George Bernard Shaw was not just joking when, in The Doctor's Dilemma, he declared: "All professions are conspiracies against the laity."

The laity, we ordinary citizens, find ourselves at the receiving end of the untender mercies of professionals. Consider, for example, the doctors. There is the ease of Dr Harold Shipman, who murdered his patients unsuspected and undetected for decades. Then we heard of the doctors at Bristol Royal Infirmary hoarding body parts from dead infants without parental knowledge or consent. Now we read of the consultant gynaecologist Rodney Ledward, whose botched operations over 16 years have left a trail of more than 400 maimed women.

But our dilemma is not just with doctors. We learn that 90 per cent of dental work performed in Britain falls below international standards, that the profession is littered with "cowboy dentists" who are destroying patients' teeth with impunity. Complaints against lawyers are increasing exponentially. According to the Law Society, there is a backlog of 13,000 complaints against solicitors that will take decades to investigate. The Office of Fair Trading is looking into the huge fees and probably unfair profits being made by the professions -- surveyors, architects, accountants. And we all know about the scandal at Lloyds where a businessman's word is no longer his bond -- but someone else's money down the drain.

Nothing new here, you may say. Many of Dickens's novels turned on the villainy of a member of the professions. But, in Dickens's day, the bad egg was no more than that: public trust in the professions generally was maintained, and the social opprobrium that greeted the transgressors was considered a sufficient sanction to uphold standards. In these postmodern times, when moral certainties have dissolved, the principles that govern professional behaviour are less clear. Our dilemma is that the very professions we need to trust in good times and rely on unreservedly in times of personal distress now incite our distrust, suspicion and even fear.

Professions evolved and consolidated their positions during the Victorian era, and they are deeply entrenched in the morality of the period. Originally, the term was reserved for such "gentlemanly pursuits" as law, medicine and divinity. In pre-industrial Europe, these occupations gave those who lacked a private income the opportunity to make a living without troubling themselves with commerce or manual work. Eventually, officers in the army and navy were also included in the professions.

Most conventional definitions present an idealised picture of the professions as selfless public service. The classical definition is provided by A M Carr-Saunders and P A Wilson in their 1933 study, The Professions. The profession, they claimed, "exhibits a complex of characteristics" which are absent in other vocational pursuits; the main being the "ethical imperative" to render "altruistic service" to the public. Later, in his much quoted 1964 book, The Qualifying Associations, Geoffrey Millerson provided a compact list of the most frequently mentioned characteristics of professions, as enumerated by a host of writers and commentators: a skill based on theoretical knowledge; a requirement for training and education; the need for the professional to demonstrate competence by passing a test; a code of professional conduct; the performance of a service for the public good; and a professional organisation.

Such formal definitions leave out a number of other, perhaps more important, aspects of the professions. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Professionals Who Lost Their Virtue
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.