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

By Stephen L. Fielding | Go to book overview

and sensory and neurological disturbances. In reference to the legal outcome, there is little difference in the percentage of cases settled out of court between the population and the sample. However, the population contains a higher percentage of dismissals than the sample, whereas the sample contains physicians who won their cases, and two cases were still pending. A far higher percentage of cash awards were made among the sample of interviewed physicians. Finally, the sample contains an equal number of male and female physicians; I deliberately oversampled women in order to make gender comparisons.

Thus the most interesting overall feature of the sample is that it contains a higher proportion of physicians who lost their cases involving improper performance compared to the population, but these cases involved less serious complications. This might be due to the possibility that these physicians may have felt a greater need to discuss what happened to them.

These differences between the sample and the population suggest that it would be inappropriate to generalize the findings from these data. Instead, their value lies in deepening our understanding of the experience and views of this particular group.


NOTES
1.
Anthony Giddens, The Constitution of Society ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).
2.
For some of the major literature, see W. I. Thomas and Dorothy Swain Thomas , The Child in America: Behavior, Problems, and Programs ( New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928), 572; George Herbert Mead, Mind, Self, and Society, ed. Charles W. Morris [ 1934] ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962); Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge ( Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor, 1967).
3.
Robert Granfield, Making Elite Lawyers: Visions of the Harvard Law School and Beyond ( New York: Routledge, 1992).
4.
Although Giddens relies more on phenomenology and ethnomethodology to explain agency, his work overlaps symbolic interactionism through the work of Goffman. I have, therefore, taken the liberty of replacing Giddens's phenomenology with symbolic interactionism. I do so because the notion of how reality is defined through negotiation and the construction of symbols are more directly related to action. See Ian Craib for a statement of this in Anthony Giddens ( New York: Routledge, 1992), 134-35.
5.
Max Weber, From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, ed. and trans. Hans H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1958), 196-244.
6.
Charles Perrow, Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies ( New York: Basic Books, 1984).
7.
Letter from the assistant director of the Department of State Legislation, American Medical Association, November 11, 1991.
8.
Stephen L. Fielding, "The Social Construction of the Medical MalpracticeCrisis: A Case Study of Massachusetts Physicians,"

-208-

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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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