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Abstract of "Seeing the Power Struggle Between Doctors, Lawyers, and Patients Through a Foucauldian Point of View−a Need for Medical Liability Reform"
Karren M. Takamura
JVL Research Center, Los Angeles Orthopaedic Hospital, 2400 S. Flower St., Los Angeles, CA 90007
One of the most pressing issues in the American health-care industry today is the need to reestablish an equitable balance of power between three competing loci of influence: patients who seek and pay for treatment, doctors who provide treatment in return for restitution, and trial lawyers who mediate any disagreements between the aforementioned parties. Michel Foucault, a prominent tewntieth-century French philosopher, theorizes how power manifests itself in society, and how it is relocated within a network of individuals in certain situations. His theories can be useful in analyzing the forces that are involved: first to contextualize the excessive degree of legal intervention that has jeopardized American health care, and then to explain why this intervention has effectively destroyed the balance of power between the parties. Lawyers have exercised their power through discourse and art of persuasion in an effective manner in the courtroom. The courtroom serves as an important institution in which societal constructions are often established−in this case, that patients are entitled to sue for less-than-perfect treatment. However, this expectation is not completely unfounded; patients are responsible for these rising medical costs created by new technology and research. In a society where most things are 100% guaranteed−or your money back, patients expect perfection, especially if they are paying a lot of money. This eventually leads to high insurance premiums and scarcity of doctors in certain states and specialties. How ethical is it that lawyers are capitalizing on this societal mentality that is handicapping doctors who are trying to save people's lives? Certainly, doctors need to be held accountable for negligence or carelessness, but people must realize that complications from medical procedures, even with the utmost care, is ineluctable. This calls for a change not only in a legal sense, but how society views this issue as a whole.
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