Remember, dear reader, I said there would be tangents. Now we are embarking on a trip to Baltimore, Md., and childbirth will barely be mentioned for a while.
In his groundbreaking 1982 book, The Social Transformation of American Medicine, Paul Starr plumbs the source of mainstream medicine's authority. Simply put, it comes from the public's dependence on the doctor's superior competence, real or perceived.
As the title of Starr's book suggests, doctors were not always able to lay claim to that authority. Indeed, before the germ theory was proved and methods of administering anesthesia devised, making possible the development of effective surgery, physicians had very little to offer. (That didn't keep them from practicing, though.)
But in Baltimore, late in the 19th century, with new technologies and understandings developing rapidly on all sides, events were unfolding that would help solidify the medical profession's authority.
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