Medical Authority and the Culture of Rights

The current article is a review of Paul Starr's analysis in the Social Transformation of American Medicine (1982) and its impact on health care activism and the medical profession. Halpern asserts that Starr does not adequately investigate the process by which patients' rights gained through health care activism empower them as individuals. This process is referred to as the deprofessionalization theory. The author contends that although patient rights may affect medical authority they do not necessarily lead to empowerment in the health care arena for individuals. Additionally, how, and if, medical authority has been compromised by health care activism is a topic of debate for scholars. Nevertheless, recent patient advocacy, such as in the areas of consumer rights and direct marketing to consumers by pharmaceutical companies, is of great consequence to the health care arena—particularly in the potentially multiple ways it may affect medical authority.