Thomas Szasz's The Second Skin: The Struggle for Definition

Pages: 3 (1015 words) Published: December 11, 2013

Free-Response 3: The Struggle for Definition
Over time, the relationship between doctor and patient has been defined by a doctor’s role to act as a fiduciary in the interest of their patients. Now, a physician’s role is being redefined as partly acting as a distributer of resources, and diagnoses; definition. In The Second Sin, Thomas Szasz proposes that “the struggle for definition is veritably the struggle for life itself.” He uses the example of two western men desperately fighting for the possession of a gun that has been thrown to the ground. Whoever reaches the gun first and shoots survives. He who survives, defines the situation for the other. Szasz then poses the question, in a dispute between two individuals, specifically child and Mom, who defines the other as troublesome or mentally ill? Human beings are competing creatures, a victor is the one who defines a situation for himself and his victim, the definition of the world is decided by the higher person.

Not too far from where Szasz attended school, stood a statue of Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian obstetrician who became known as a 19th century martyr of science and research. He discovered that an often fatal ‘childbed fever’, very common among new mothers in hospitals, could very easily be eliminated and prevented if doctors washed their hands before assisting in childbirth. Especially if they had been performing autopsies prior to assisting with the deliveries. After his findings, Semmelweis demanded revolution in hospital hygiene, and when it didn’t come, he grew hostile towards doctors who ignored his research. His opponents lured him to a mental hospital where his incarceration was arranged. The obstetrician was brutally beaten and put into a straitjacket, within two weeks he died in that mental hospital. Semmelweis had grabbed the gun first aiming at hospital hygiene. He attempted to define the situation by holding up the truth that doctor’s were not doing enough to protect their...
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