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  1. 1. SCLY2: Talcott Parsons The Sick Role: Sickness as deviance Doctors play an important part in social control of the sick and access to the sick role. They act as gate keepers of entry to the sick role- doctors are the one who legitimise (justify) sickness by officially classifying it as such. For example, doctors can stop people taking more than a few days off work on the grounds of illness by refusing to issue sick notes. The doctor’s role is to cure the sick and get them back to normal, and sort out those who are really sick from the hypochondriacs and skivers who try to evade their responsibilities by faking illness. Person feels unwell Doctor or other power figure says untrue Person leaves sick role Doctor or other power figure (e.g. parent) says true Person enters sick role Rights To be exempy from normal social obligations (e.g work, college, getting out of bed). Not to be blamed for not performing normal social obligations. Obligations To see professional help and do as they are told (otherwise they can be blamed for their continuing illness) To try and get well as soon as possible (otherwise they lose their rights. According to Talcott Parsons (1975), being sick is a deviant act which can prevent a person undertaking their normal social functions. Society therefore controls this deviance known as ‘the sick role’. SPEEDY RECOVERY
  2. 2. Questions 1) Think of examples of people you know who have ‘unfairly’ claimed the sick role. What do you think about them and their behaviour? ....................................................................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................................... 2) Are there some illnesses which, in your opinion do not deserve the ‘rights’ of the sick role? ....................................................................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................................... 3) What is your understanding of the gate keeper role? ....................................................................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................................... .......................................................................................................................................................

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