Over the past two to three decades there has been vigorous debate in the sociological literature as well as in popular forums concerning the changing social position and status of the medical profession and the extent to which consumerism has entered the doctor-patient relationship. Few qualitative sociological inquiries, however, have directly sought the views of medical practitioners themselves on these issues. To address this hiatus, this article discusses the findings from an empirical study using semi-structured indepth interviews with 20 doctors living and working in Sydney about their views on the contemporary status of the medical profession and their experiences of medical practice. Three major aspects are discussed: the extent to which the social position of doctors has changed, the impact of consumerism on medical practice and the qualities of a 'good' doctor. The implications of these data for theorising the nature of contemporary medical practice, power and professional status is explored, with particular reference to the insights offered by Foucauldian theory.
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