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Trusting Doctors: The Decline of Moral Authority in American Medicine Hardcover – September 14, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0691135748 ISBN-10: 0691135746 Edition: 1st

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Trusting Doctors: The Decline of Moral Authority in American Medicine + Faith Cure: Divine Healing in the Holiness and Pentecostal Movements + Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy (Galaxy Books)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1 edition (September 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691135746
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691135748
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,294,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Imber offers a well-researched, insightful work on the role of trust in American medicine, and how social changes altered both doctors' and patients' understanding of the role of the physician from the late 19th century to the present. Imber's relentless focus on the issue of trust differentiates his work from other histories of medicine and doctoring in America. . . Overall, this is an important book on medicine, doctor-patient relationships, and the historical progress of medical ethics."--A.W. Klink, Choice

"Trusting Doctors can strongly be recommended as a reference text for all teachers in the sociology and bio ethical fields and should be referred to by those who determine and regularly change the content of Medical School teaching."--Sam Mellick, CBE, Supreme Court Library Review of Books

"Imber offers a thought-provoking entry into the history of bioethics, a history which continues to unfold."--Susan E. Lederer, Social History of Medicine

"Imber is at his best . . . when he presents his views on religion and the origins of American medical professionalism. With erudition, he draws on archival material drawn from the writings and preaching of American clergy in the 19th and early 20th centuries."--Joseph J. Fins, Journal of the American Medical Association

"Trusting Doctors is an original and important analysis of the decline of doctors' moral authority and a subtle, sociologically informed critique of contemporary medical bioethics."--Robert Zussman, American Journal of Sociology

"I learned a great deal from reading this book. . . . The book is exceedingly well documented, the notes are very illuminating, and I've already bought or downloaded a number of Imber's sources for further reading. Anyone interested in medical ethics, medical sociology, or the history of medicine will find this book a very worthwhile read."--Daniel P. Sulmasy, New Atlantis

From the Inside Flap

"Jonathan Imber's Trusting Doctors is an important, interesting, and readable book. We all know that our modern doctors do not have the social aura they once did. Imber effectively tells us the eye-opening story of why that change has happened."--Daniel Callahan, cofounder of the Hastings Center

"Doctors and people who have no choice but to trust doctors--which means all of us--need to read this book. With both sympathy and uncompromising honesty, Jonathan Imber traces the frequently troubled history of a medical profession that needs to attend to its increasingly fragile moral authority."--Richard John Neuhaus, editor in chief of the journal First Things

"Trusting Doctors is a major book, a benchmark on medical morality and trust, and an exemplar of religion's impact on medicine."--Peter Conrad, Brandeis University

"This important book challenges many ideas that have long been taken for granted in medical sociology and the history of medicine: ideas about the work of bioethics and epidemiology, as well as the relation between religion and medicine."--Raymond G. De Vries, University of Michigan

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I found this book on a library shelf. I tried to read it because I like sociology and I'm fascinated by the cultural and psycological aspects of medicine.

But somehow I just couldn't get into this book. As a former academic myself, I understand the challenge of writing for a general audience after writing for academic journals. Still, this book seemed unnecessarily dense. I was also uncomfortable with the author's style of focusing on very specific examples to make a point. For example, when the author quotes from an address to a medical school, it is hard for the readeer to tell whether it's typical or influential.

The book does have value because it raises questions that stimulate thought could lead to useful discussions in public forums. For instance, I hadn't thought about the influence of religion on medicine. Some of the anecdotes would be interesting to discuss in the context of ethics and professionalism.

But I wonder if today's lack of trust can be attributed to more mundane reasons. Just about everyone I know will consult the Internet as well as a doctor when they have a medical question. Doctors themselves (such as Atul Gawande and Jerome Groopman) write books that acknowledge the gaps in scientific medicine. These books, along with prominent newspaper accounts, reveal that medical decisions can be influenced by drug company incentives as much as by pure science.

Ultimately, Americans (and perhaps people all over the world) are replacing the question "Why we don't trust doctors" with, "Why shouldn't we bring a healthy skepticism to our encounters with the medical profession?" Imber recounts a horrific story of a doctor who actually slapped a grandmother who dared to question his authority, back in the 1930s.
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