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Sociology of health presentation on the sick role

Sociology of health presentation on the sick role

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Sickrolelesson2 Sickrolelesson2 Presentation Transcript

  • The Doctor and Patient Sociology of Health Lesson 2
  • Functionalist Perspective
    • Parsons and the sick role (1951)
    • The medical profession has power in society
    • They have a role to diagnose sickness and to try to cure it through treatment
    • They also have other powers which function to regulate the amount of sickness in society
  • The ‘Sick Role’
    • Just like any other role in society the sick role has certain expectations or norms associated with it
    • Therefore being sick is not merely a condition but it is a set of expectations that form a pattern
    • The sick role comprises of rights and obligations in Western society
  • Rights
    • When we are defined as sick we are exempt from some of our normal responsibilities
    • Think of the child complaining of a tummy bug – they (if they can prove it) get to have the day off school and stay at home.
    • The more serious the complaint the more exemption the person has – more than one day off school, not having to complete chores, not having to attend work for a prolonged period of time if illness is more serious
    • Generally the sick person is not blamed for their condition (although there are some conditions for which the sick person is blamed)
    • The sick person needs to be ‘looked after’ in some way – a cup of tea brought to bed, chicken soup etc
  • Responsibilities
    • The sick person is not expected to desire to be sick and take on the sick role
    • They are expected to see it as something to avoid
    • They are expected to take steps to recover as quickly as possible – take a course of drugs, not put oneself in danger of prolonging the sickness
    • The sick person will only have the right to be exempt from their responsibilities if they take these steps to ‘get better’
    • If the person does not take these steps then there will be sanctions on them to do so – think of the moral aspect – the accusation of ‘malingering’ or ‘pretending’ to be ill in order to continue to receive the benefits of being ill
    • The sick person must seek medical diagnosis and help if their illness persists – think of responsibilities at work; usually possible to ‘self-certify’ sickness for the 1 st week of absence but requirement of a ‘sick note’ from the doctor for sickness lasting longer. A sanction for not seeking diagnosis/help can result in non-payment of wages or some other sanction
  • Vulnerability
    • The patient or ‘sick role’ is seen as being vulnerable – that is, they are more passive and weaker than members of society not defined as sick
    • In this sense they need to be ‘looked after’ and protected
    • When we are sick we have to trust other people to help us and to help make us better
    • The patient has to enter into an often intimate relationship with a doctor or member of the health profession
    • This level of intimacy is very unusual compared to contact with other roles – think of an internal examination like the ‘smear test’
    • Again, the medical professional has more power which adds more to the vulnerability of the patient/’sick’ person
    • This all makes the sick more vulnerable to exploitation
    • Therefore medical professions must be highly valued and trust if of paramount importance
  • Deviance
    • Sick people can also be a threat to society and social order
    • The benefits of being sick – exemption from day to day responsibilities are, on their own, attractive to many – many people would prefer the day off work!
    • Therefore to ensure that the sick role is less attractive and to avoid the disruption so many sick days could cause, the sick role must also have a negative side
    • Being exempt from normal responsibilities is seen as being deviant – that is, not part of mainstream society
    • The medical profession is needed to safeguard the rest of society from fraudulent sickness
    • In this sense the doctor can be seen as a ‘gate keeper’ filtering those who are genuinely ill from those that are faking!
    • They are a form of social control to ensure the smooth running of society and maintain social order
  • The Interactionist Perspective
    • Some key terminology you need to understand before looking at the Interactionist perspective on the ‘sick role’
    • Interactionists are often termed ‘micro-sociologists’
    • They see the Marxist and functionalist perspectives as having a ‘dehumanising effect’ on the people in society
    • It seeks to explain HOW people understand each other and the social world they inhabit
    • People construct meaning into their lives – we don’t just passively follow, we make sense of the world
    • We interpret society and the actions of others
    • Our worlds are fragile and subject to change through reinterpretation
    • Interactions with others will shape how we see and understand our social world
  • More terms to understand
    • Interactionists talk about labels
      • Labels identify things or people as distinct from other things or people
      • Often, in interactionism, these labels can be negative; assigning negative characteristics to people
        • Such as deviant (different from others in some way)
      • Labels form part of how we see ourselves and other people (criminal label might cause us to attribute certain undesirable characteristics such as; untrustworthy etc)
      • Being given a particular label can make others treat us differently (avoidance, for example, upon discovering someone is a criminal)
      • Labels often have a moral aspect
      • Labels can alter how we see ourselves and form a significant part of our identity
  • Interactionists and Health
    • Sickness as a negative label
    • Sickness as a negative trait in society – think of ideas about beauty, fitness, competence
    • SOCIETAL REACTION
      • Negative label can lead others to view the person assigned with the sick label in a negative way
        • Can result in the sick person being treated in a negative way
          • Such as being treated like a child (having to be taken care of)
          • Being ignored (speaking to the person with the wheel chair user rather than the wheel chair user)
          • Treated as being deficient in some way
    • This has an impact on the way the person labelled as sick sees themselves
        • Negative self-concept (how a person sees themselves)
        • Being different from ‘normal people’
  • Criticisms of Parsons
    • People often reject the ‘sick role’ – soldiering on regardless
      • Avoiding because of negative label
      • The sick are not merely passive
        • They negotiate with the doctor
    • The sick ARE often blamed for their sickness
      • Think of obesity, lung cancer, HIV/AIDS etc
        • Many illnesses are seen to be the fault of the sick
        • Chalfont and Kurtz (1971)
          • Alcoholism seen as an illegitimate illness as the ‘sufferer’ has ‘brought it on themselves’
    • Chronic illness
      • Parsons’ analysis fits with temporary illness (acute) rather than with long term illness (chronic)
        • Person with diabetes is not exempt from everyday responsibilities but is expected to do what they can