Do We Still Need Doctors?
Perhaps our title question is too ambiguous. If we still need doctors, what do we need them for? If not, who will replace them? Disease and death will always be with us, and we will always need to respond. The individuals who respond will need to integrate the complex and implicit values of our society on disease and death. That integrating function is complex and demanding; it can be carried out only by people who have been initiated into its mysteries and specially trained in the proper responses. We will always need such people, whether we call them doctors, shamans, priests, thanatologists, disability-rights advocates, or whatever. But what are today’s mysteries, how do we judge the proper responses, and what makes the response of a “doctor” unique?