Earle Scarlett

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What Is a Profession?

Scarlett, Earle

Last Updated: Feb-03-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay


Scarlett writes about the tradition of medicine in a recognizably British (Canadian) voice. He presents a definition of a profession that features social responsibility and duty to serve others, and notes that "an organized profession does not seek to advance the money-making feature of professional activity." Scarlett identifies seven "pillars" (principal qualities) of the physician, or any other professional: technical skill, social responsibility, knowledge of history, knowledge of literature and the arts, personal integrity, faith that there is some meaning and value in life, and "the grace of humility."

Scarlett critiques the medical profession in two ways. First, physicians are not skeptical enough and willing enough to correct their errors. Secondly, professional qualities have declined "at the hands of the scarcely literate pushing public . . . . " As a result of this, some physicians now believe that "all this rhetoric about the essential nobility of the medical profession is a load of old rubbish" (p. 129).

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