In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in complementary medicine, and indeed alternative medicine. Moreover the number of professionally trained therapist and practitioners has increased giving the patient/client a better choice to their own method of treatment. In this essay a critical assessment of the view that ‘patients use of complementary and alternative medicine, can be understood as part of the individualization of responsibility for health’ will be made and argued, that there are many aspects which influence the uptake of such therapies. Responsibility for health has changed and this will be discussed by examples of sociological theories.
Medical sociologists have been previously concerned with illness rather than health. Functionalists such as Parsons (2011) suggested illness was a deviance and had the effect of disruption on society which had to be controlled. Parsons used the sick note to illustrate that the sick person was excused from performing normally, but this had to be kept to a minimum and the sick person had to want to get better. The function of the medical profession was to socially control the use of the sick notes to those genuinely sick (Webb, Westergaard, 2004). However in 2013 the working person aims to keep working during some illnesses or at least limit the time spent away from work. To do this it involves the patient/client to taking some responsibility for keeping healthy and reducing the time actually being ill. Growing up in North America, studying medicine; we are taught to be more reactive to illness as to being becoming more proactive in keeping a healthy lifestyle. Therefore by choosing to use alternative medicine, it could provide an additional method which may combat illness and help speed up recovery and also, prevent illness in general (Lett, 2000).
Possible reasons why patient/clients use alternative medical practices are more complex than just increased availability. According to Baarts and Kryger Pedersen (2009) a literature review indicated that the choice of using these therapies could be placed into two main categories. They along with many other authors (Sointu 2006) suggests that negative experiences within conventional medical practices, which can cause disenchantment and initiate people to seek out other methods of elevating their health care problems. They also cite from sociological studies that impersonal practices and the inability to cure chronic illness is part of the explanation for the move to use alternative therapies (Telford, Kralik, Koch,2006). The results of the study indicate that another reason for uptake is the fact that many believed in the trends of alternative methods and choose to use a ‘consumerist attitude’ (Sharma, 1992:80) to obtaining health care. Consumer demand has brought about the changes associated with alternative therapies use. The increase in several countries at grass root level as suggested by Barry (2005) has influenced the integration of several therapies into biomedical healthcare systems. Consumerism was one of the main ideas to influence factor incorporated in the changes to the NHS in the early 2000s. Consumerism led systems meant a more flexible and responsive health service which encouraged inclusion and self- help. This shift in thinking was brought about partly by consumer demand growing ever higher and medical sociologists debating changes to how society views illness and health care.
This individualistic approach gave the patient ‘choices’, which became the new buzz words for the growing public. Patient choice became a popular part of modern day health care was at the heart of policy making within health care policy making.It is aimed to give the patient greater say in how their care was arranged and by whom. In the United States, where health care is privatized, the structure of society has an impact on health and illness which can be altered by economic systems and it could influence the...
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