Profession of Medicine
The fundamental and consistent criterion that distinguishes a profession from other occupations is its autonomy, a condition that is not absolute but that depends for its existence on the tolerance and protection of the state. Eliot Freidson, a giant of medical sociology, drew this conclusion as the central theme of his comprehensive analysis of the nature of professions.
For those who work regularly with medical professional bodies or with doctors in managed care environments, Freidson's monograph, now nearly 40 years old, rings so many bells as to be positively deafening.
Freidson argues that the special privilege of considerable freedom from the control of outsiders rests on three claims by professions. Firstly, that there is such an unusual degree of skill and knowledge involved in professional work that non-professionals are not equipped to evaluate it. Secondly, that professionals are responsible and may be trusted to work without supervision. Thirdly, that the