The Practice of Uncertainty: Voices of Physicians and Patients in Medical Malpractice Claims

By Stephen L. Fielding | Go to book overview

5
WE WERE GOING TO BE
SOCIETY'S HEROES

A lot of what happens to doctors these days is really almost unbearable . . . we thought we were going to be society's heroes, and instead we're the villains and we don't understand how this happened. I mean it used to be that doctors couldn't really do anything for people except hold their hands. Now we can do a lot and instead of being better guys, we're worse.

--Dr. Johnson

Now that we have discussed background, social context, system accidents, and the inherent uncertainty associated with medicine and malpractice claims, we turn to the experience of physicians and claimants in the clinical setting (as illustrated by the "relationship" box in Figure 1.1 in Chapter 1). We will consider the claimants and physicians I interviewed relative to medical malpractice claims and how they socially constructed their relationships with each other. By social construction I mean the process by which people negotiate and define the world around them. 1, 2 While reality is ultimately grounded in objective occurrences marked by what people say and do, constructionists argue that this reality can never be known with complete objectivity. As W. I. Thomas once wrote, "If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences."3 Furthermore, one's reality is not static. It continually

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The Practice of Uncertainty: Voices of Physicians and Patients in Medical Malpractice Claims
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface and Acknowledgments xv
  • People Interviewed xvii
  • Notes xxiii
  • 1 - Historical and Social Background 1
  • 2 - Setting the Contemporary Stage 25
  • Notes 43
  • 3 - System Accidents 49
  • Notes 66
  • 4 - Uncertainty -- Which Diagnosis and Treatment? 69
  • Summary 81
  • 5 - We Were Going to Be Society's Heroes 83
  • Summary and Discussion 98
  • 6 - Am I the Same? 103
  • 7 - Gender and Telling the Story 123
  • Summary 144
  • 8 - The Defense of Wealth 147
  • Notes 168
  • 9 - Implications 171
  • Notes 196
  • Appendix - Theory and Method 199
  • Notes 208
  • Bibliography 211
  • Index 225
  • About the Author 231
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