Medical Sociology - Power of Biomedicine in Singapore

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The paper will discuss if the long standing hegemony of biomedicine is under threat with the rise of alternative medicine in Singapore. Two opposite views have formed with one insisting the power of biomedicine has become crystallized while the other agrees the power of biomedicine has declined. View of Biomedicine power being crystallized

Medicine has often been viewed as the central key in a network of relationships where the medical profession is able to generate power over other groups or institutions. The social, cultural and clinical authority given to medicine has resulted in the dominance of biomedicine. Doctors are given professional authority where they have the power to control any other occupations working within the same sphere but are free from control by other occupations (Weitz 2004). Medicine has become a market commodity that the profits generated by the medical industry are highly lucrative. Capitalist industries such as the finance and the corporate sectors profit from it. Through sale of drugs, medical instruments and private insurances, large corporations have the monopoly power to direct and exploit medical system. The dominant status of biomedicine will thus continue to maintain in order to keep the profits running. The State plays an important role in crystallizing medical power within the health care division of labor. In India, indigenous Ayurvedic medicine has a long history and presence. However, the state support given to biomedicine has given it an advantage position and more locals seek biomedical help instead of the folk medicine. The biomedical profession has become an agent of the state. Friedson (1994) also maintains that doctors are given the largest share of power as they are authorized by the State to make ultimate decisions in majority of clinical decisions. Doctor’s recommendations for treatments are rarely rejected by health care organizations. Doctors in the United States for example, continue to maintain their control of critical areas of professional status by setting licensure regulations and practice standards. For example, doctors on medical boards are given dominance to judge the education and qualifications of other health practitioners. This preserves the dominance of the profession even if power within the individuals diminishes. Sociologist Faucault came up with the concept of power that describes the medical practices of power as enabling and constraining. He theorizes that medicalisation is about social controlling of the body. Doctors are able to acquire a deep understanding of our body through the systematic training they have gone thru. The doctor’s ability to diagnose patient through medical gaze, gives them power as the diagnosis lies in the hands of the expertise of the doctor. In addition, the specialized and complex skills of the medical profession have led to doctors being highly paid and give rise to them having more power due to higher social economic status. The cultural superiority of doctor is exercised and reinforced when there is a language barrier or in cases where patients suffer from disabilities. The patient’s inability to discuss medical problem at length has given the doctor power to instruct the patient. Whilst medicine has traditionally maintained dominance and power within the health care system, contemporary social trends such as proletarianisation, professionalization and the corporatisation of the health care system are proved to be challenges to medicine's established power. Decline of biomedicine due to rise of alternative treatments One reason for the decline in power of the biomedicine is the result of the political and economic structure of modern societies. The decline of power of the professions is due to the prolatarianisation of doctors as they become employees of huge public and private corporations and become their workers (McKinglay and Stoeckle 1988). Proletarianisation is where doctors are no longer being in...
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