Medicalization

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Q1. Outline and discuss Peter Conrad’s (2005) thesis that consumers have become a major “engine of medicalisation”
“The shifting engines or the driving engines of medicalisation” as described by Peter Conrad have three major influences to the growing changes in the medical field and medical jurisdiction, starting with “biotechnology i.e. the pharmaceutical industry, then there is the consumers and managed care” throughout the thesis paper Conrad describes each of these factors in detail with examples referring to medications and illness or disorders that have become medicalised due to these factors. Many symptoms and disorders have become medicalised in the past and resulting with the treatment of these disorders with medication, for example “hyperactivity, child abuse, menopause, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and alcoholism, among others, broadened our understanding of the range of medicalisation and the attendant social processes” (Conrad 1992) many symptoms and disorders became medicalised due to the pressures of society, if individuals didn’t conform to the society norms and beliefs they were deemed to medically ill and needed to be treated. These individuals may actually have no medical problems, yet they were treated as if they were ill. As far back as 1838 The Dangerous Lunatic Act was brought in to deal with individuals in the society who had mental problems or just didn’t conform to society norms. This Act was aimed at many different types of individuals they even forced homosexuals to receive treatment as they weren’t seen as normal and were then classified as ill.

One aspect I found portrayed throughout the thesis was that the medical field is very monetary driven and money is a major influential factor and is a driving factor behind it all. Many pharmaceutical companies are in it to make the profits. They have resulted to the broadening of there products to treat other disorders “Since the FDA approved the use of Paxil for SAD in 1999 and GAD in 2001, GlaxoSmithKline has spent millions to raise the public visibility of SAD and GAD through sophisticated marketing campaigns” (Conrad 2005) Paxil was originally intended to treat depression but GlaxoSmithKline brought it forward to use it to treat an anxiety disorder due to the crowded market for anti-depressants they needed to expand. They have even resulted to straight to the consumer advertising “Drug companies now spend nearly as much on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising as in advertising to physicians in medical journals, especially for "blockbuster drugs that are prescribed for common complaints such as allergy, heart burn, arthritis, 'erectile dysfunction,' depression and anxiety" (Relman and Angell 2002:36). Not only is biotechnology and consumers drivers for medicalization but Ivan Illich believes that physicians are the main drivers for medicalization. He believes that physicians are the main reason patients are becoming medicalised, they are being unnecessarily treated by doctors for conditions or symptoms that never before would have been treated by medicine. “A professional and physician-based health-care system that has grown beyond critical bounds is sickening for three reasons: it must produce clinical damage that outweighs its potential benefits; it cannot but enhance even as it obscures the political conditions that render society unhealthy; and it tends to mystify and to expropriate the power of the individual to heal himself and to shape his or her environment. Such medicine is but a device to convince those who are sick and tired of society that it is they who are ill, impotent, and in need of technical repair.” (Illich 1995, p.9) Illich also talks of “Clinical Itrogenesis” (Illich) and how when one is admitted to hospital for treatment they may actually contract other illness while admitted and actually worsen their state of health even though they are in a health care setting. “Clinical iatrogenic disease...
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