Expectations and Obligations: Professionalism and Medicine’s Social Contract with Society.
Explores aspects of the social contract. As health care has become of great importance to both individual citizens and to society, it has become more important to understand medicine’s relationship to the society it serves in order to have a basis for meaningful dialogue. During the past decade, individuals in the medical, legal, social sciences, and health policy fields have suggested that professionalism serves as the basis of medicine’s relationship with society, and many have termed this relationship a social contract. However, the concept of medicine’s social contract remains vague, and the implications of its existence have not been fully explored. The use of the term social contract is endorsed and the origin of the concept and its relationship to professionalism is explored and its evolution and application to medicine is traced. The expectations of the various parties to the contract and some of the implications of its use are explored.