The doctor's role

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The roles of doctors and their place in society vary from time to time and from country to country, depending on many factors:

  • Religious and mystical influence
  • Degree of political authoritarianism
  • Degree of influence of various health-related lobbies
  • Social structure: distribution of wealth and social status, caste, racism, sexism, etc.
  • Physicians' social and financial origins and status
  • Image of the community
  • Image of the individual
  • Education level of the population
  • ...

Schematically, we can see an evolution in Europe:

  • During antiquity: the patient's duty to take care of himself and to accept treatment from a doctor with religious or sacred authority.
  • Gradual evolution towards paternalism: the doctor "knows what's good", the patient must obey in his or her own interest
  • Very recent evolution :
    • towards patient autonomy: informed consent, right to health, patient charter, lessening of the doctor's authority
    • in countries where healthcare costs have been progressively socialized, various measures aimed at reducing these costs for the state are modifying the doctor's role:
      • loss of physician autonomy: state control over examination and treatment prescriptions
      • development of telemedicine
      • reallocation or delegation of medical procedures to paramedical professions.


Dr Shanan Khairi, MD