Study Questions: Chapter 18
1. What is the “sick role”?
Answer: According to Talcott Parsons, being sick came with four specific expectations:
- The person engaged in the sick role should expect to be granted “exemption from normal social responsibilities.”
- The patient should expect to be “taken care of” rather than having to take care of him- or herself.
- The patient is socially obligated to try to “get well” rather than remain in the undesirable state of being ill.
- The sick person is socially obligated to “seek technically competent help.” (p. 484)
2. What is biomedicine? How is it different from “alternative” medicine?
Answer: Biomedicine involves the application of standard principles and practices of Western scientific disciplines, particularly biology, in the diagnosis and treatment of symptoms of illness and disease. It uses physical tests to find defined, purely physical entities (such as bacteria, viruses, and trauma) and then applies purely physical medicines and therapies to counteract them. It is the dominant practice in Western society.
In contrast, “alternative” medicine encompasses treatments that fall outside of mainstream medical practice, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga, or confronting environmental health hazards. (p. 488)
3. What is medicalization? Provide a specific example of something that has been medicalized.
Answer: Sociologists Chang and Christakis define medicalization as “the process by which certain behaviours or conditions are defined as medical problems (rather than, for example, as moral or legal problems), and medical intervention becomes the focus of remedy and social control.” Examples include addiction, obesity, and posttraumatic stress disorder, among others. (pp. 490–491)
4. How is the health and medical system different within Québec, when compared to the rest of Canada?
Answer: Quebec has more male nurses. Quebec has more female medical students. Quebec has more citizens without a regular doctor. And Quebec has lower tuition fees for medical students. (pp. 503–504)
5. In what ways do “race” and ethnicity intersect with medicine?
Answer: In terms of ethnicity, immigrant doctors in Canada face severe employment barriers, the healthcare system neglects rural communities, qualified doctors leaving developing countries for North America, and the restrictions that doctors’ associations place on internationally-trained doctors. An example of race intersecting with medicine is the influx of Filipino nurses coming to Canada. Disease is also racialized, such as the SARS epidemic in 2003 and other “cultural syndromes.” (pp. 493–500)