The uses of the idea of medicalisation

How useful is the concept of medicalisation for understanding moving ideas about health and illness?

"As technology and technology developments, age related functions often become medicalised and enter into the site of powerful interpersonal establishments like the health industry. When such human experiences come under medical dominion, the experience is thought to become medicalized; this entails the definition and treatment of a problem under a medical construction ".

Peter Conrad

The quote above comes from Conrad, a leading sociologist in the field of health and treatments and he explained that "medicalization explains a process by which nonmedical problems become identified and cured as medical problems, usually in conditions of illnesses and disorders" (Kawachi and Conrad: 1996). The article question asks someone to assess the effectiveness of the idea of medicalization. To be able to fully answer and understand the question I'll have to check out the term medicalization and explore its roots and meaning. The term is such an ambiguous, complex but contested process and was initially used and coined during the 1960's and grew in reputation through the 1970s. this is due to the fact that it was associated with the idea of cultural control and was prominent in the works of key figures including Conrad, Thomas Szasz and Irving Zola. Furthermore I'd have to understand how useful the concept is ideal for understanding the moving ideas about health and illness.

The concept of medicalization has educated the sociology of health insurance and illness for many years now. Typically, it has been deliberated and analyzed with critical nuance, while some key thinkers within the discipline have suggested that it's not unequivocally negative. Conrad criticised and disputed that the development and progress of medical power into domains of everyday existence was marketed by doctors and was a drive of social control that was to be rejected in the name of liberation (Conrad 1973). Medicalization "describes a process where non-medical problems become defined and treated as medical problems, usually in conditions of condition or disorders" (Gabe et al. 2004:59) and likewise be simply categorised as a procedure of increased medical intervention into areas which would more often than not be beyond the medical province.

Medicalization is deemed imperative because it methods to make something a medical matter. Also, it explains a situation or predicament which had been previously discussed in a moral, spiritual or social conditions now become thought as the subject of medical and methodical knowledge.

Many years back for example some children were deemed and regarded as problematic, misbehaving and unruly. Some adults were shy and men who have been balding just used hats to hide it. Which was that. Nevertheless, nowadays all these descriptions could and possibly would be related to a type of illness or disease and be given a examination or medicine to take care of it in some instances. Medicalization clarifies this. Furthermore, "medicalization has been put on a whole variety of problems which may have come to be thought as medial, which range from childbirth and the menopause through to alcoholism and homosexuality (Gabe et al. 2006: 59). Furthermore, the word explains the process in where particular characteristics of every day life become medically described, thus come under the expert of doctors and other health professionals to study, diagnose, prevent and or treat the issue.

The idea of medicalization could very well be "related only indirectly to communal constructionanism, in that it generally does not question the basis of medical knowledge as such, but issues its application". Nettleton continues and says that is "draws attention to the actual fact that medicine runs as a powerful institution of communal control" (Nettleton 2006: 25). It can this by boasting expertise in areas in life which recently were not regarded as medical problems or matters. This includes such life levels such as ageing, childbirth, alcohol ingestion and child years behaviour in addition, the "availability of new pharmacological treatments and hereditary screening intensifies these functions thus it constructs, or redefines, areas of normal life as medical problems". (Conrad and Schneider 1990 as cited in Nettleton 2006: 25).

Medicalization may appear on three different and particular levels matching to Conrad and Schneider (1980). The first was explained as "conceptually when a medical vocabulary is employed to define an issue". In some instances, doctors do not have to be involved and an example if this is AA.

The second was the institutional level, "institutionally, when organizations choose a medical method of treating a problem where they specialise" and the 3rd was "at the level of doctor - patient conversation whenever a problem is defined as a medical and medical treatment occurs" (as cited in Gabe et al 2004:59). These instances all involve doctors and their treatments immediately, excluding alcoholism which has other information to help people such as the AA.

The third level was the "interactional level" which was where in fact the problem, sociable problem, becomes thought as medical and medicalization occurs within a doctor-patient discussion.

Medicalization shows the shifting ideas about health and illness. Health insurance and illness does not only include specific things like influenza or the wintry, but deviant behaviours. Deviant behaviours that have been once merely referred to as unlawful, immoral or naughty before have now been labelled with medical meanings. Conrad and Schneider (1992, as cited in Gabe 2004: 59) a "five-staged sequential process" of medicalizing deviant behavior.

Stage one requires the behaviour itself as being deviant. 'Chronic drunkenness' was considered basically as "highly undesirable", before it was medically labelled as 'long-term drunkenness'. The second level "occurs when the medical conception of an deviant behaviour is declared in a specialist medical trip" according to Conrad and Schneider.

Self-fulfilling prophecy is a sociological term coined and associated with the 20th century sociologist, Robert K. Merton. He explained this is in his publication "Social Theory and Social Structure" which was released in 1949. He described it as affirmation that changes ones action and for that reason comes true, that

-"The self-fulfilling prophecy is, initially, a phony explanation of the problem evoking a new behaviour which makes the original fake conception come 'true'. This specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the real course of events as facts that he was from the very beginning"

(Merton 1968: 477)

In other words, the prophecy is incorrect however it is made true by someone's activities. The prediction, even if it's true or not, will have an impact on the outcome of a situation or the way an organization or you might behave. We can link this into the labelling theory, and labelling someone as a legal. Us treating that person as a lawbreaker may entice those to harbour and action out unlawful ways as that is what they are labelled and likely to be.

Medicalization can too be associated with the self satisfying prophecy as it's been regarded as being helpful in working with long-term mental health problems such as anxiety disorders. Many have advised that the self-fulfilling prophecy has led to better success in treating difficult ailments and has been beneficial to medicalization.

Broom and Woodward (2008) advised that "when medical explanations were mobilised to improve the coherence of the patient's connection with symptoms, patients found medicalization to be helpful".

A visible thinker in the thought of medicalization was Ivan Illich, who studied it profusely and was very influential, in simple fact being one of the earliest philosophers to utilize the term "medicalization". Illich's appraisal of professional medication and particularly his use of the term medicalization lead him to be very influential within the willpower and is quoted to possess said that "Modern drugs is a negation of health. It is not organized to provide human being health, but only itself, as an organization. It makes more folks ill than it heals. "

Illich attributed medicalization "to the increasing professionalization and bureaucratization of medical corporations associated with industrialization" (Gabe et al 2004: 61). He supposed that because of the development of modern medicine, it created a reliance on remedies and doctors thus taking away peoples ability to look after themselves and "engage in home care".

In his publication "Limits to medicine: Medical nemesis" (1975) Illich disputed that the medical job in point of fact harms people in an activity known as 'iatrogenesis'. This is elucidated as when there can be an increase in disorder and communal problems as the result of medical intervention. Illich saw this developing on three levels.

The first was the professional medical iatrogenesis. These engaged serious side-effects that have been are often worse than the original condition. The negative effects of the specialized medical intervention outweighed the positive looked after conveyed the potential issues of modern medication. There have been negative side effects of medication and drugs, including poisoning people. In addition, infections which could be found in the hospital such as MRSA and errors brought on my medical negligence.

The second level was the public iatrogenesis whereby the general public is made submissive and reliant on the medical career to help them handle their life in modern culture. Furthermore all hurting is hospitalised and drugs undermines health indirectly because of its impact on communal organisation of contemporary society. Along the way people cease to provide labor and birth, for example, be suffering or die at home

And the 3rd level is social iatrogenesis, which can be known as the structural. This is where life functions such as aging and dying become "medicalized" which along the way creates a modern culture which is not able to deal with natural life process thus learning to be a culture of dependence. Additionally, people are dispossessed with their ability to handle pain or bereavement for example as people count on medicine and pros. (Illick 1975)

It was said that women's systems were being medicalized. Sociologists such as Ehrenreich and English (1978) got argued that women's systems were being medicalized. Menstruation and motherhood had become seen as medical problems requiring interventions such as hysterectomies. Nettleton furthered this idea and talked about this with regards to childbirth. The Medicalisation of childbirth is as a result of professional dominance. She explained that "the control of pregnancy and childbirth has been bought out by a mainly male medical profession".

Medicine can thus be regarded as patriarchal and working out an undue sociable control over women's lives. From conception to the labor and birth of the infant, the ladies are closely watched thus medical monitoring and intervention in being pregnant & childbirth are actually routine processes. Childbirth is categorised as a 'medical problem' therefore "it becomes conceptualized in conditions of clinical basic safety, and women should have their babies in hospitals" (Nettleton 2006: 26). This subsequently results in women being reliant on health care.

Nevertheless recent studies and research show that it may really be safer to have babies at home because "there would have been less vunerable to infection and technocological interference" (Oakley 1884, as cited in Nettleton 2006: 26)

"Medicalization combines phenomenological and Marxist methods of health insurance and illness for the reason that it considers definitions of health problems to be products of public interactions or negotiations that are inherently unequal" (Nettleton 2006: 26). Marxism discussed medicalization and linked it with oppression, arguing that medicine can disguise the fundamental causes of disease which include poverty and social inequality. In the process they see health as a person problem, rather than society's problem.

Medicalization has often been said to be beneficiary, but also expensive, which may well not always be apparent and obvious. It is studied in conditions of the role and vitality of occupations, patients and businesses, and also for its implications for common people whose self-identity and life-decisions may depend on the prevailing concepts of health and illness. Once a condition is classed as medical, a medical model of disability tends to be used alternatively than a sociable model. "It constructs, or redefines, areas of normal life as medical problems" (Nettleton 2006: 26).

Concluding this article, the concept of medicalization started out with the medical dominance which included the increase of medicine's influence and labelling over things thought to be 'normal' life happenings and experiences. Yet, in recent time, this view of the submissive lay down populace, in thrall to expansionist drugs, has been challenged. As a result, as we type in a post-modern time, with an increase of concerns over risk and a drop in the trust of expert specialist, many sociologists claim "that the present day day 'consumer' of medical care plays a dynamic role in causing or resisting medicalization". Furthermore "Such participationcan be difficult as health care consumers become significantly aware of the risks and uncertainty bordering many medical choices". Additionally "the introduction of the present day day consumer not only boosts questions about the notion of medicalisation as a uni-dimensional notion, but also requires consideration of the precise social contexts in which medicalisation occurs" (Ballard and Elston 2005). In addition they suggest that as we get into a post-modern time, conceptualizing medicalisation as a uni-dimensional or as the result of medical dominance primarily is inadequate.

Medicalization has been known as "the processes where social phenomena become perceived and cured as diseases" (Ballard and Elston 2005). It is the process in by issues and encounters that have previously been accounted for in religious, moral, or public contexts then become thought as the main topic of clinical medical knowledge.

The idea itself questions the fact that physical conditions themselves constitute a sickness. It argues that the classification and id of diseases is socially produced and. It's been suggested that remedies is seen as being instilled with subjective assumptions of the contemporary society where it developed. Additionally, it argues that the classification and identification of diseases is socially made and, along with the rest of knowledge, is definately not achieving the ideals of objectivity and neutrality. The medical thesis "has much to recommendincluding the creation of new understanding of the social techniques involved in the development and response to medical examination and treatment" (Gabe et al. 2004: 62).

The concept pays to for understanding shifting ideas about health insurance and illness in a way that the "developments also donate to the development of new medical categories" labelling every day life experiences which may proceed through as a medical issue.

It can be criticised since it enables a reliance on science, medication and doctors and advertised consumerism. For instance it could have a proposed upsurge in pharmaceuticalisation without medicalization because medical career would have by-passed. For instance it would promote consumerism, and folks would purchase drugs and drugs over the internet, or in pharmacies. This could be unsafe. Gabe at. Al observed that while there are criticisms to be made, "medicalization remains a good concept for sociologists of health and illness" (Gabe et al 2004: 62).

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