The Medicalization Of Death

Powerful Essays
The Medicalization Of Death

Critical evaluation of: whether medical explanations predominate and how individuals negotiate and resist the medical model.

In order to illustrate the predominance of medical explanations, a definition of the medicalisation thesis will be given and illustrated by the case of the treatment of terminally ill patients. The medicalisation of death and dying will be highlighted by a review of sociological literature from both feminist and non-feminist perspectives. The limits of medicalisation will be provided as a rationale for the resistance of the medifcal model. Finally, the ways in which individuals negotiate and resist the medicalisation of death will be discussed including the rise of pro-euthanasia groups, increasing use of complementary medicine, and the popularity of the hospice movement.

The main elements of the medical model of health are the search for objective, discernable signs of disease, its diagnosis and treatment (Biswas, 1993). Therefore, by adhering to this reductionist view, the human body is seen as a biochemical machine (Turner, 1995) and health merely as an absence of disease, a commodity to be bought and sold. The rise of hospitals with their goal of curing and controlling disease has led to the marginalisation of lay medicine, and a focus upon the individual rather than society as a cause of ill health. Health education and promotion with their focus upon 'victim blaming' and individualism have extended the remit of the medical profession from the hospital into the community. With medical imperialism the power of medicina has grown and medicine has all but replaced religion as an institution of social control. Illich (1976, p53) describes medicine as a: 'moral enterprise.....[which] gives content to good and evil..... like law and religion [it] defines what is normal, proper or desirable'.

Medicalisation is defined as:'a process of increased medical intervention into areas that hitherto would be outside he medical domain' (Bilton et al, 1996 p422). Areas of life which could be considered 'natural' such as pregnancy, childbirth, unhappiness, ageing and death have been brought within the medical remit (Taylor & Field, 1997) and therefore are increasingly viewed under the principles of the medical model. Indeed many of these 'ailments' cannot be cured by medical intervention but are still subjec...

... middle of paper ...


Taylor, S. & Field, D. (1997) Sociology of Health & Health Care. Blackwell Science: Oxford.

Thompson, D. F. (1993) Professionalism & Paternalism

IN Dickenson, D. & Johnson, M. (Eds) (1993) Death, Dying & Bereavement. Sage: London.

Turner, B.S. (1995) Medical Power & Social Knowledge (2nd ed). Sage: London.

Victor, C.V. (1993) Health Services & Policy for Dying People & their Carers

IN Dickenson, D. & Johnson, M. (Eds) (1993) Death, Dying & Bereavement. Sage: London.

Voluntary Euthanasia Society (1999) The Case for Voluntary Euthanasia

AT <a href="">

Walter, T. (1993) Sociologists Never Die: British Sociology & Death

IN Clark, D. (Ed) (1993) The Sociology of Death. Blackwell: Oxford.

Walter, T. (1999) On Bereavement: The Culture of Grief. Open University Press: Buckingham.

World Health Organisation (1990) cited in

Dunlop, R.J. & Hockley, J.M. (1998) Hospice-based Palliative Care Teams: The Hospital-Hospice Interface (2nd ed). Oxford University Press: Oxford.

Zola (1972) cited in

Armstrong, D. (1989) An Outline of Sociology as Applied to Medicine (3rd ed). Wright: London.
Get Access