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Tuesday, August 31st 2010

The Most Important Profession

I don’t think there is anything nobler than being a physician. In it’s most prime form it is service to life’s most basic needs.

Certainly there are professions and lives with similar dedication. But lawyers and journalist I can’t reasonably place amongst them. This from someone who favors liberty and transparency in society above most else; certainly things that lawyers and journalists can help foster.

And yet, for all the respect thrown towards physicians by society, even amongst the access crisis and the accusations of greed, you can’t help but get the sense that some people are delusional. I take this from a speech by Gerry Spence,

“[Lawyers] are the most important people in America,” Spence said. “There is no other profession in America that fights for freedom, that fights for what America is about, that fights for justice for ordinary people.”


“I want to ask you which would be more important: If all of the doctors in the country somehow disappeared or all the trial lawyers in America somehow disappeared?” he asked. “We can live without medical care, but we cannot live without justice.”

Spence was a prominent trial lawyer, a near celebrity trial lawyer, who may be prone to such hyperbole. But the reality is no American will ever need a lawyer quite like they need an operation for a perforated bowel. Not even if facing criminal charges to potentially include execution as punishment, if for no other reason than the difference in acuity amongst the two examples.

To claim the legal profession as more important than the practice of medicine borders on delusional.

So does the next quote,

“Journalism is not brain surgery; it’s more difficult than that,” said Andrew Cline, an assistant professor of journalism at Missouri State University, who has written on the perception of bias in news coverage.

The blogosphere jumped on this quote, as it appeared in an Ombudsman’s article in the New York Times. See Kevin, MD or The Happy Hospitalist or Pursuing Holiness.

There are people who do great things with their lives, on par with any healing effort. But a trial lawyer and a mainstream journalist cannot claim their importance to society as such. And the fact people exist who think such shows that, for all the respect it is granted, there may still not be quite enough for exactly what physicians do.