Some of the problems facing the American medical profession today stem from an underlying cultural phenomenon--the evolution of the image of the doctor as an omnipotent and infallible individual. It is an image that is held by both doctors and patients alike. The behavior elicited by patient's awe, asserts Malmsheimer, becomes counterproductive when doctors are no longer able to admit their mistakes and limitations because their patients, conditioned to an ideal image, demand continuous proof of a doctor's infallibility. This volume examines the origins and evolution of the distorted and highly evocative image of American doctor from a variety of perspectives--sociological, historical, literary, cultural, and in light of modern communications theory. From the mid-nineteenth through the early part of the twentieth century, as America's health care system grew and made vast improvements in patient care, the idealized image of the doctor also grew. Ironically, though today's health care system has become less readily accessible and more expensive, there has been little comparable decline in the idealization of the doctor.
Introduction: Wanting More, Getting Less Training for Frustration: The Sociological Perspective Disillusionment and Discontent: The Historical Dimension The Power of Expectations: Theoretical Frameworks Literary Artifacts: Origins Literary Artifacts: Continuations Popular Culture: Proliferations Popular Culture: Familiar Differences Bibliography Index
Reviews . . . Malmsheimer justifies his position that American fiction is useful in studying the role of the American physician. His analyses are generally concise and interesting. Historians who read this book will learn about a rarely used data source that often contains useful information on past medical practices and the role of the physician.—Bulletin of the History of Medicine