The Medicalization of Society by Peter Conrad made me apply what we learned in the first half of the course to the health care industry and medicine. As a pre-med student at NYU, I can say that the courses that we are required to take do not delve into the influence of society on medicine and health care. While we do talk about the influence of the environment on biology/genetics, as we have discussed in the first half of this course, rarely do we ever discuss the influence of society on the changes in what is considered a disease, which Conrad points out, is inevitably intertwined. This is seen in his examples, such as the demedicalization of homosexuality, and the medicalization of the male aging process, which have both changed over time.
These changing definitions have both their positive and negative attributes, as society becomes either more lenient or firmer on what is considered acceptable. As seen in the ADD/ADHD example, consumerism in the health care industry steers the definition of the “disease” from neurological to a wider range of symptoms, thus including more people under the treatment umbrella than previously before.
The consumerism of health care then begs the question of ethics. Is it ethical to have someone take medication for a disease when it is possible that he/she can live a normal life without medical treatment, such as ADD/ADHD? Consumerism in the health care industry, I think, goes against the basic principles of medicine, which should aim at treating individuals, rather than targeting them with advertisements that destigmatize certain diseases, thus making it socially acceptable to receive unnecessary treatments that are covered by medical insurance.