Appendix 58 - MDeity

by Michael Greger, MD and United Progressive Alumni

[ Medical School Resources | Appendices | Discussion ]

"The medical establishment will only get off its pedestal when we get off our knees." - John Robbins

Positions of power are sheltered workshops for the ego - Roger G. Kennedy

A 1968 textbook has this to say of the gynecologist, "If, like all human beings, he is made in the image of the Almighty and if he is kind, then the kindness and concern for his patient may provide her with a glimpse of God." This sentiment comes up over and over. Osler called the activities of the physician "man's redemption of man."[666] Hippocrates wrote, "A physician who is a lover of wisdom is the equal of a god."

There would never be any public agreement among doctors if they did not agree to agree on the main point of the doctor being always in the right - George Bernard Shaw[667]

"I think doctors are socialized early on to be arrogant" - Tom Delbanco, chief of medicine at Beth Israel.[668] Some flaunt it. One prominent physician replies to the question, "Is the doctor-patient relationship marked by authoritarianism, paternalism, and domination?" in the New England Journal: "My answer is not only 'yes' but also that a certain measure of these characteristics is essential to good medical care."[669]

An article in the New England Journal suggests that one of the most flagrant examples of medical arrogance today is the pervasive idea that the failure of medical ministrations is the patient's fault. "Blaming the victim" is currently a popular excuse for therapeutic failure.[670]


I reckon I shall stick to medicine for good. I find it's the best of all trades because whether you do any good or not you still get your money. We never get blamed for bad workmanship.... If we blunder it isn't our look out: it's always the fault of the fellow who's dead and the best part of it is that there's a sort of decency among the dead, a remarkable discretion: you never find them making any complaint against the doctor who killed them.

"Flirting with seductions of tyranny"[671]

In an attempt to explain the actions of the Nazi doctors against the terminally ill, one commentator believes that doctors develop an open contempt for the people who cannot be rehabilitated because these people, for whom there seems to be no effective remedies, have become, "a threat to newly acquired delusions of omnipotence."[672]

Poverty doctor Howard Brody in his new book The Healer's Power:

Somewhere in our more primitive depths is a lust, half childish, half sadistic, to use whatever power we might have to victimize others, and enjoy it - to glory in the fact that they and not we are the victims, and to escape for a moment into the fantasy that since we can avoid the victimhood through our power, we are invulnerable and need never again feel fear.[673]

Dr. Walter Franz in Arthur Miller's The Price.

'You start out wanting the best; and there's no question that you do need a certain fanaticism; there's so much to know and so little time. Until you've eliminated everything extraneous - including people. And of course the time comes when you realize that you haven't merely been specializing in something - something has been specializing in you. You become a kind of instrument, an instrument that cuts money out of people and fame out of the world. And it finally makes you stupid. Power can do that. You get to think that because you can frighten people they love you. Even that you love them - and the whole thing comes down to fear.'[674]



[666] Rogers, DE. "On Entering Medicine." Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 69(1993):61-68.

[667] Shaw, GB. The Doctor's Dilemma Studio City: Players Press, Incorporated, 1996.

[668] Duncan, DE. Residents: The Perils and Promise of Educating Young Doctors. New York, NY: Scribner, 1996:129.

[669] Ingelfinger, FJ. "Arrogance," New England Journal of Medicine 303(1980):1507-1511.

[670] Ibid.

[671] Brody, H. The Seductions of Tyranny. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.

[672] Doctors, Torture and Abuse of the Doctor-Patient Relationship." Canadian Medical Association Journal 116(1977):708-710.

[673] Brody, H. The Seductions of Tyranny. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.

[674] Miller, A. The Price New York: Penguin, 1985:82.



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