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Practitioner or Patient - Who's in Charge?

Marie R. Haug and Bebe Lavin
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 22, No. 3 (Sep., 1981), pp. 212-229
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2136517
Page Count: 18
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Practitioner or Patient - Who's in Charge?
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Abstract

Traditionally, the sociological concept of the relationship between practitioner and patient has been the sick role, in which the physician as practitioner is in charge, and the patient is obligated to cooperate with the physician's prescribed regimen. More recently, this power relationship has been redefined by some from a consumerist perspective, in which physician and patient bargain over the terms of the relationship. Although each brings different resources to the encounter, neither participant is automatically in charge. Data from a sample of 466 members of the public and 86 physicians are used to assess the extent of reported public attitudes and behaviors that challenge the physician's traditional power, as well as physicians' reported response to such attitudes and events, as evidence of the public's propensity to a consumerist relationship and physicians' willingness to accept it. Among both the public and physicians, substantial minorities express beliefs and report actions congruent with this consumerist perspective. However, different demographic and health belief variables emerge in the two groups as explanatory factors. Doctor-patient power relationships are seen to depend on characteristics of the actors as well as on the illness situation.

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