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August 9, 1995

Error in Medicine

Author Affiliations

National Public Health and Hospital Institute Washington, DC

JAMA. 1995;274(6):460. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530060031023

To the Editor.  —Dr Leape's1 article and Dr Blumenthal's Editorial2 highlight the dilemma that confronts occupational groups with complete autonomy and power in situational encounters with social actors—how to accept their fallibility without losing autonomy or power in the social arena.Through "medicalization" of numerous human processes, socialization in closed systems, and the public's concomitant reliance and trust in the scientific method, physicians have taken the place of priests who wielded as much if not more power in the social milieu at the turn of the century. The decline of the occupational power of priests was hastened by the increase of scientific knowledge and the growing popular wisdom that priests and the church were fallible and limited in their understanding, explanation, monitoring, and control of social behavior and processes.I submit that with public acknowledgment of their pitfalls and with limited knowledge (given the unpredictability of the human

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