The Medicalisation Of Death Essay Research Paper

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The Medicalisation Of Death Essay, Research Paper Critical evaluation of: whether medical explanations predominate and how individuals negotiate and resist the medical model. In order to illustrate the predominance of medical explanations, a definition of the medicalisation thesis will be given and illustrated by the case of the treatment of terminally ill patients. The medicalisation of death and dying will be highlighted by a review of sociological literature from both feminist and non-feminist perspectives. The limits of medicalisation will be provided as a rationale for the resistance of the medifcal model. Finally, the ways in which individuals negotiate and resist the medicalisation of death will be discussed including the rise of pro-euthanasia groups, increasing use

of complementary medicine, and the popularity of the hospice movement. The main elements of the medical model of health are the search for objective, discernable signs of disease, its diagnosis and treatment (Biswas, 1993). Therefore, by adhering to this reductionist view, the human body is seen as a biochemical machine (Turner, 1995) and health merely as an absence of disease, a commodity to be bought and sold. The rise of hospitals with their goal of curing and controlling disease has led to the marginalisation of lay medicine, and a focus upon the individual rather than society as a cause of ill health. Health education and promotion with their focus upon ‘victim blaming’ and individualism have extended the remit of the medical profession from the hospital into the

community. With medical imperialism the power of medicina has grown and medicine has all but replaced religion as an institution of social control. Illich (1976, p53) describes medicine as a: ‘moral enterprise…..[which] gives content to good and evil….. like law and religion [it] defines what is normal, proper or desirable’. Medicalisation is defined as:’a process of increased medical intervention into areas that hitherto would be outside he medical domain’ (Bilton et al, 1996 p422). Areas of life which could be considered ‘natural’ such as pregnancy, childbirth, unhappiness, ageing and death have been brought within the medical remit (Taylor & Field, 1997) and therefore are increasingly viewed under the principles of the medical model. Indeed many of these

‘ailments’ cannot be cured by medical intervention but are still subjected to the ‘medical gaze’ Szasz (1964) believed that treatment of the mentally ill by drugs and electroconvulsiv therapy was not only unnecessary but a violation of human rights (cited in Scambler, 1991). Social problems such as child abuse, violence and alcoholism have become redefined as medical problems as medicalisation is a more effective way of controlling deviance than legal punishment (Scampbler, 1991). The medical profession have claimed victory over the eradication of many acute infectious diseases although critics would argue advances in social conditions and nutrition were more instrumental. People are now living longer and their expectations of health have changed. Whatever the cause, the

pattern of disease has altered with the acute killers of the past being replaced with chronic long-term, often degenerative diseases for which there are no cures. The effect of the medicalisation of increasing areas of life has increased the power of the medical profession and relatively decreased the power of their patients. Ther has been a: ’stripping away from human culture of ways of coping with pain, birth and death and their replacemnet by a sanitised technological medical intervention against which individuals and society are unable to fight back’ (Jones, 1994 p456). Zola (1972 cited in Armstrong, 1989) maintains that this causes a loss of autonomy, creating passive patients who conform to whatever the medical profession dictate. This is damaging because: ‘not only