Sociology of Heath & Health Care
April 5, 2013
EXAM 2 (Chs. 5-9)
1. Most individuals assume that illness is an objective, biological category. Our textbook, on the other hand, argues that illness is a moral category and a social construction. Argue for or against this position. Be sure to address the issues likely to be raised by those holding the opposite view. It is true that many individuals assume that illness is a purely biological condition, definable by objectively measured biological traits. However, definitions of illness vary considerably over time and across social groups. In contrast, other individuals and literature argue that illness is a moral category and a social construction. The objective, biological perspective of illness focuses on the physiology or structure/functioning of the human body. The biological standpoint of illness is an objective reality. Scientific research and evidence determines whether or not we have a new illness. The medical model of illness begins with the assumption that illness is an objective label given to anything that deviates from normal biological functioning. It also claims that there is no moral element or political bias in labeling a condition or behavior as an element. Medical professionals are able to determine what is considered an illness and favor this model because there is a curative approach. Illness is moral category because our society constantly makes moral judgments about what is healthy and what is not. Certain conditions and actions that vary from the norm may be defined as illnesses, normal variations, bad character or bad behavior. Sociologists argue that illness is inherently a moral category because deciding what illness is always means deciding what is good or bad. I believe that this is true because society also judges behaviors as good or bad. Illness becomes a moral status because how we frame an illness can greatly reflect our values as a society. Similarly, whenever we label someone “ill”, we suggest there is something undesirable about that person. By definition, an ill person is one whose actions, abilities, or appearance do not meet social norms. Such a person is typically considered less socially worthy than those deemed healthy. Illness, then, is a moral status based on good or bad, worthiness or unworthiness of a person. Illness is a subjective, social construction due to the sociological notion that there is no shared understanding of objective reality. As a culture, we have decided what illness is and have defined its existence. This is based on a set of values, beliefs, and scientific evidence. Even diagnoses and the way they are conducted dictate the subjective standpoint of an illness. Our society determines which illness is stigmatized. Social forces also shape our actions toward health, wellness, and healing. The sociological approach to health is not always about the biological, physiological, or anatomical causes of an illness or disease. The language of disease and illness is used all of the time in our everyday lives. We routinely talk about living in a “sick” society or a diseased world, labeling anyone who behaves in a way we don’t understand or accept as “sick”. In order to fully understand health and how to effectively treat an illness, our society should look into the environment and see how things play out. The position that I support is that illness is a moral category and social construction. A curative approach can be effective, however preventative measures and the importance of social influences on health, such as stress factors and lifestyle, must be acknowledged. Different cultures have different ideas about what it means to be healthy or ill. Also many social causes such as poor living conditions and no access to health care or preventable care is a determinant of one’s health.
2. Using examples from Murderball and information from the text, explain how the medical model and the...
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