In a Democracy Are Some Citizens More Important than Others?


Program Description:

American democracy has created laws that protect two types of citizens, individual and corporations. Variations in citizen rights are evident when individual and corporate rights are examined in the context of the health care arena. Ironically, the early part of the 20th century was marked by a general skepticism of corporate citizens in the health care field. Laws were enacted to regulate drug manufacturers’ claims, while other laws required government accreditation of medical schools, hospitals and physicians. Yet by the end of the 20th century, corporate citizens in the medical field had more rights than individual citizens. While corporate citizens are quite healthy, as evidenced by the unprecedented growth in their profit margins, individual citizens have not faired as well. Today, 50 million individual citizens do not have health insurance, making access to primary and preventive care difficult to impossible. As the fortunes of corporate citizens in the health care arena improve and the health of individual citizens plateaus or declines, the health care arena provides the perfect landscape for examining differences in rights between corporate and individual citizens. What is the role of democracy in managing the conflict between corporations and individuals?


Sharyn Potter

Sharyn J. Potter is an associate professor in the department of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, and the co-director of Prevention Innovations: Research and Practices for Ending Violence Against Women on Campus. Trained as a medical sociologist she has studied how policy change impacts organizations, providers and clients. Professor Potter has used organizational theories to understand organizational outcomes and, more recently, individual behavior in the face of new legislation. Much of her research focuses on three aspects of the health care industry, 1) the role of not-for-profit and for-profit hospitals, 2) hospital executive turnover and 3) the doctor-patient relationship.

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