The view on the role of Medicine and Medical Profession in society differs hugely.
The differentiating theories regarding the sociology of Health clearly portray this. The Modern pre-occupation with health has lead to an increase social control of society by Medical professions The Marxist view of the role of medicine and medical profession is that the welfare state (including the NHS) was created to pacify the working class. Although it benefits the capitalists the most by giving them a healthy workforce. They believe the reason for work is for capital class, so they have a ‘healthy workforce’.
They believe that the medical profession serves, as a ‘Gatekeeper’, a means to define those who are officially sick and so unable to work. Part of their role also involves controlling the workforce in society, providing an overall ‘healthy workforce’ for the people in society. They consider the Medical Profession to be serving the needs of capitalism by maintaining a healthy workforce, which increases productivity and profit and so realistically they decide who can be acknowledged as being officially ‘ill’. The Marxists also emphasize that it is the Medical Profession whom are the ‘major consumers’ of the products of capitalism.
High-Tech Medicine requires a massive industry in terms of drugs and equipment, which need constant updating. Capitalists Medicine is seen as a means of social control: 1) Alleviating the symptoms caused by unhealthy capitalist system, 2) Legitimating official attempts to change peoples’ behaviour 3) Acting as ‘gate-keepers, only those ‘acceptably sick’ allowed to have time away from work sick with pay. Furthermore, the Marxists argue that, another ideological control is the cultivation of the belief that medical science can provide the answers and solutions to what are really problems generated by the inequalities of capitalism.They also believe that the existence of state health service further legitimates ‘caring capitalism’.
Doctors are an essential tool in supporting the health-damaging capitalists system. They are part of the public relations system of the ruling class and in return for their services they are rewarded with high status, high income and protection from criticism. However, one of the weaknesses of the perspectives described in the Marxists theory is that they have failed to consider the particular experiences of women and biomedicine.Childbirth and pregnancy became defined as a medical complaint with women as maternity cases, showing how pregnancy and childbirth are perceived in very different ways by doctors and mothers, with Dr’s approach prevailing.
Feminists argue that the welfare state is based on patriarchal (male dominated) ideology. They also argue that women are expected to take the burden from the state by looking after the elderly and sick relatives. Some feminists have shown how the development of the medical professions has involved taking away medical know how from women.Midwives mainly being women whilst obstetricians and gynaecologists mainly men.
They also argue that the inductions of births and caesarean operations often seen as a matter of convenience for hospitals rather than for the good of the mother and baby. Moreover the functionalists also disagree with the Marxists theory. The functionalist approach argues that ‘ill health’ is a form of deviance controlled by society. They believe that the control of the ‘sick roll’ is vital for the maintenance of the well being of society.
The patient becomes passive under the power of a Doctor. The Doctor is and should be obeyed because of their knowledge, experience and status in society. Furthermore, the interactionists believe that symbols of the medical profession are used by Doctors to control their encounters with their patient by using the term and theory of ‘labelling’. Some interactionists believe that w/c receive inferior treatment because they are labelled as uneducated and unlikely to understand explanations about their illness or proposed treatment (Goffman ‘asylums’)Overall all the theories point to Doctors having an important role in the ‘social control’ of society because of their power, high status and knowledge.
We have discussed how the Marxists theory believe that the Doctors/Medical Professions acts as ‘gate-keepers’ for capitalism. Whilst the feminists believe that the Medical professions are based upon patriarchal ideology and finally Interactionists believing that the Dr’s label the patients as a portrayal of their power and high status and that patients are vulnerable.