Functionalists have a consensus view on the medical profession; they support the occupation, as they believe all groups in society work together like a human body. Other groups such as feminists and Marxists believe that the medical profession does not take into account the social model. Both Marxist and feminists have a more conflict approach around the medical occupation.
Functionalists believe that doctors and the likes of have an altruistic behaviour; they put others before themselves. Functionalists such as Parsons and Barber believe that the medical profession is essential to society. Barber believes that doctors are an elite and only people who have studied in the medical occupation are able to help members of society that are ill. Barber believes that doctors are altruistic and put others before themselves. Barber believes that doctors follow a strict code of ethics and ensure that no patients are exploited. He also believes doctors are an elite due to the fact that doctors are in their position due to their own ability.
Parsons sick role shows that doctors and the likes of try their hardest to help society meet functional pre-requisites. These are the care of the elderly, primary socialisation and the production of food. Parsons sick role enables people to have both rights and obligations. To enable the sick role member to have rights he must follow through with the obligations. The sick role enables people to feel better and thus get on with their everyday lives. The doctor acts as a ‘gate keeper’ and allows whom s/he sees fit to enter.
There are some criticisms of the sick role however. Not everyone who is ill adopts the sick role. The sick role tends to ignore personal blame within the sick role and exempts people who have a self induced illness such as alcoholics. The sick role also ignores things that are not curable such as terminal illness, diabetes and HIV.
Waitzkin believes that the high standards of trust and training needed to be a doctor are acting as a barrier to prevent others from accessing this occupation.
Another criticism of the functionalist view of the medical profession comes from weber that believes that the status of doctors is only beneficial for themselves. They are not altruistic due to the high status gained and the money that is earned.
A Marxist/conflict approach on the medical profession would suggest that Doctors are agents of the social construct. Marxists believe that Doctors benefit the capitalist society and are in turn helping out the Bourgeoisie by keeping the work force healthy and maintaining a steady work force. Marxists believe that the medical model is curative but not preventative and should focus more on the social model, which takes in account of housing, environment, working conditions and self-inflicted illnesses.
A Marxist called Navarro believes that the NHS benefits capitalism due to the fact that the NHS gives out treatment to everyone in the UK. Navarro believes that the NHS is a curative approach and the fact that everyone can get better ASAP means a healthy workforce and high profits or the Bourgeoisie. Navarro also believes that drugs make exploitation experienced by the proletariat bearable.
Marxists believe that the sick role allows people to go back to work and make surplus value for the capitalist leaders. Marxists see doctors as gatekeepers that control the sick role. They decide who enters and who doesn’t. This benefits capitalism as they can limit the amount of people on the sick role to ensure that surplus value is still being made.
Another Marxist called McKinley suggests that medicine is a business and that drug companies are trying to make a profit on health products such as anti-aging creams and other beauty treatments.
However, there are some criticisms of the Marxist conflict theory; for example, it ignores the changing doctor-patient interactions, patients today may not accept the dominant ideology. Also, there has been research that suggests that doctors are neither simply a capitalist ally.
Feminists believe that men/doctors control the activities of women, for example childbirth. Also, feminists also believe that men dominate the top roles in the medical professions.