April 21, 1989

In the Patient's Best Interest: Women and the Politics of Medical Decisions

Author Affiliations

Boston College and Henry A. Murray Center (Radcliffe) Boston, Mass

Boston College and Henry A. Murray Center (Radcliffe) Boston, Mass


by Sue Fisher, 214 pp, $25, paper $13, New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 1986, 1988.

JAMA. 1989;261(15):2264. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420150114050

In the sociological analysis of doctorpatient relationships, the classic sociological theory, articulated by Talcott Parsons, states that physicians, in contrast to businesspeople, for example, are not self-oriented; rather, they are oriented to act in the interest of their patients. To the objection that many physicians do indeed act in their own self-interest, it is argued that the classic definition refers to institutionalized social norms and is not taken to mean that there aren't people who deviate from it.

In this book the author, rejecting the classic definition, meets it on its own terms: she does not try to show up individual shortcomings in the doctor-patient relationship, but rests her case on institutionalized normative behavior. She shows that it is expected by both partners in the interaction, physicians and patients alike, that the former will use their institutional authority to define the patients' interests.

Having selected as her problem of investigation