Two cheers for the Post-Standard, for its extensive follow up on the story about the Manlius dentist and the more general problem of lax policing of the profession (see an earlier post, "Fatal Extraction").
Why just two cheers and not three? Two reasons.
First, because the story underplays the dental profession's own role--and responsibility--in creating and managing such a look-the-other-way process. The way the story is framed and the way the relevant information has been selected, all the ire is directed toward the government. But there was a time when being a professional, and therefore being part of a profession, carried with it a strong sense of the work's social importance, a vision of the public good and how one's activity related to it, and an ethical commitment. Now, the focus has become more limited to expert knowledge and skills. Steven Brint's In an Age of Experts provides an interesting summary of this shift during the 20th century. For the medical profession more specifically, Paul Starr's Social Transformation of American Medicine is insightful (see my earlier reference to that work).
And second, because although the story points out that there are critics (such as NYPIRG) of the policing of medical doctors, who claim that it's also too lax, the contrast drawn between doctors and dentists might seem to suggest that things are OK regarding the former. But note that the Institute of Medicine has estimated that in U.S. hospitals, up to 98,000 deaths each year are caused by preventable "medical error." A more recent estimate by the health care quality company HealthGrades puts the number at 195,000. Granted, the numbers are for hospitals and so the errors there are not being made solely by doctors, but according to these figures it's safer out on the highways.
Note: This blog draws in part on my experiences and observations interviewing political figures, writers, and analysts for "The Campbell Conversations" on WRVO. To hear past interviews I refer to in these posts, please go to the show's website. The views expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent Syracuse University, the Campbell Institute, or the WRVO Stations.
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