Monday, March 19, 2012

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.

1 comment:

  1. Samantha, you raise a very good and interesting point about the ethics of consumerism of health care. I don't think people should simply take medicine for a disease when they can live a normal life without it. In certain situations, I believe that people should look to other methods of treatment before turning and relying solely on medicine (in particular mental disorders, depression, etc). You mentioned ADD/ADHD, and I agree that some people can live with this without having to take medication. There is also the problem of starting a medicine at a young age (as with the case of children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD) thus becoming dependent on it. When does one stop the medicine? How will their body handle it? I also believe that there are so many side effects one can experience while taking a medication, that it might not be worth it.