Chronic illnesses refer to diseases that have no medical treatment. Such diseases include the likes of cancer and AIDS. One of my friends’ parents was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago. Her mother was immediately placed under treatment to try to stop the growth of the benign cancer. Her immunity was affected because of the chemotherapy sessions that she had to undergo on a regular basis to control her condition. Her health had a significant impact on the rest of her family especially my friend who was very close to her. My friend’s performance in school began to decline, and she was more reserved. Noticing this, I spent more time with her to help her cope with the situation. We visited her mother while she was in the hospital several times. After an agonizing year of battling with breast cancer, her mother’s cancer was eradicated and is now well on her way to complete recovery.
1. Sick role and Medicalization
Sick role is often used in the field of medical sociology, and it describes the obligations and rights of the people affected by the illness. A prominent sociologist called Talcott Parsons created the sick role theory in 1951. In his theory, he proves that sick individuals are forced into a role of induced deviance since they are no longer productive members of the society. This state of deviance was required to be regulated by people in the medical profession (Shilling, 2002). The sick role is based on the knowledge that the individual who has fallen ill is not in just a state of sickness, but rather, that he or she has obligations and rights. These obligations arise because the individual is forced to conform to the norms pertaining to the state of being sick. From the theory, two obligations and rights were created.
The two rights are that the person who is sick is not liable for the sickness and is excused from the roles he or she performed prior to the illness. The obligations are that the sick person should seek proficient medical aid and should play his or her part in order to get well. In addition to this, the sick role is partitioned into three; conditional, unconditional and illegitimate sick role. These partitions are created based on the cause of the sickness that the person in question has. As several medical practitioners have accepted the sick role, some people reject it. The reason of the criticism is that the theory assumes that the sick individual has accepted the sick role, which is not the case. However, even with the criticism, several patients accept and adhere to the sick role.
Medicalization refers to the process by which conditions and problems facing human beings were defined as and treated as medical conditions. The problems subsequently became the subject of several research projects and studies in order to try to find cures for the illnesses (Conrad, 2005). Medicalization is supported by evidence and hypothesis pertaining to different medical conditions. In sociology, medicalization is viewed as the function and influence of the medical professionals and patients in the medical industry. Several sociologists who claimed that medical knowledge was being used to explain conditions that were not particularly biological or affiliated to medicine, developed the concept of medicalization. This resulted to excessive reliance in the medical industry as the solution for all the problems that arose in the world. The sociologists developed this concept to try to control the intrusion of the medical practitioners in matters that were not directly linked to them.
2. How the concepts apply to the experience
The concepts of the sick role and medicalization apply to the experience I had concerning chronic illnesses. For the sick role concept, it applies in the case of my friend’s mother since she did not induce the sickness in any way. Her mother satisfied all the rights and obligations that are enumerated in the sick role. Her mother was excused from any responsibilities she had before the illness, which is evidenced by the fact that she quit her job after she was diagnosed with cancer. She was nor responsible for her condition because she did not cause the illness. In the case of the obligations she tried to get well by ensuring she took, her medicine dutifully and never missed a chemotherapy session. In addition to this, she also sought the help of a trained professional doctor who specialized in the treatment of cancer. This means that she satisfied all the obligations as stated in the sick role. The concept of medicalization also applies since the illness the patient had, was a medically viable condition, and directly affiliated to medicine. The patient, therefore, satisfied both concepts as was required of her.
3. Reasons why the concepts generally apply
The concept of medicalization applies generally because it ensures that medical interference takes place only when there is a need. If it did not exist, the medical industry would treat all the conditions medically even if they could be treated without medical help. The concept of medicalization is fundamental in the monitoring of the medical professionals and organizations in the same field and their interaction with the population. The concept of the sick role also applies generally because it protects the affected party from unnecessary complications that may arise due to the illness. Sick role ensures that the affected individual obtains the best medical help and is treated well by making sure she of he is relieved of all the responsibilities they had (Gabe, Bury & Elston, 2004).
4. Reasons why the concepts do not generally apply
The sick role theory is not very efficient since it assumes that all patients will agree to their terms and conditions. However, some patients may choose not to agree with the rights and obligations in the theory and a conflict of interest arises between the patient and the caregiver. The concept of medicalization is not also entirely appropriate since the medical industry is not interference and their treatments are rarely inappropriate. The assumption that they should not be involved in the day-to-day problems may have a negative effect on the individuals involved especially if the condition is not treated promptly.
5. Partner’s suggestion to improve my writing
After my partner read my paper, she suggested that I should provide more examples to explain the key points and I incorporated this correction in this paper.
6. My suggestions to improve my partner’s writing
I recommended the use of simple language for my partner since she used several difficult terminologies in her paper. I also corrected her sentence structure because her sentences were at times too long.
My experience with a chronically ill patient was very important in the understanding of the concepts of medicalization and social role. Without the firsthand experience, I could not apply the knowledge I had acquired in class with the real life situations. The experience has also furthered my understanding of these concepts. Medicalization and sick role theories are important in the medical industry since they protect the affected individuals, however, patients should be given an option to decline them is they so wish.
Conrad, P. (2005). Journal of Health and Social Behavior, The Shifting Engines of Medicalization 46(1) 3-14
Gabe, J., Bury, M., & Elston, M. A. (2004). Key concepts in medical sociology. London: Sage Publications
Shilling, C., (2002). The British Journal of Sociology Culture, The ‘Sick Role’ and the Consumption of Health 53(4) 621-638
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