SOSA – Oct. 15: Medicine, Science & Technology
It’s nothing medical science won’t be able to fix eventually.
Think of medicine as scientific, relatively recent development. Late 19 century. Part of
medicine‟s professionalizing strategy. Science important (industrial revolution). Science
makes progress, medicine claims expertise that other forms of healing couldn‟t claim.
Only healing system based in biochem and scientific findings as compared to other
types of healing systems. One of factors helped public accept medicine as best way to
treat illness and b/c scientific understood cause of illness and can cure OR prevent
illness, unlike other laypeople healers.
Medicine Becomes Scientific
- Late 1800s
Technolocial advances – industrialization
Distancing from other ways of treating illness
Popular support – „medicine is scientific‟ and „medicine …..
Can the social and the scientific/technological be separeated?
- Social circumstances may give rise to specific technologies that may not be
- Whig history – discoveries assessed in terms of contributions they made to
contemporary medical science
- BUT many discoveries were ignored in their time
- What gets ACCEPTED is often shaped more by cultural, economic and
professional factors than scientific evidence
- Things are just getting better, medicine getting more scientific and smarter all the
- Assumes that only the wrong ideas are getting dropped and right ideas are
always the ones that are accepted and retained.
- History of medicine shows this is not true at all.
- Most of now accepted practices were contested at the time they were discovered.
Things that used to be rejected:
Harvey‟s theory of circulation of the blood
Vaccination (started out as a folk practice), dangerous, not worthy of professions
Anti sepsis – opposed b/c idea that physicians and surgeons could spread
infection was insult to gentlemen
If didn‟t fit with culture of the time, it was discounted as an advancement
Shaped by cultural, economics and professional factors, scientific considerations
come second with accepting of advancement. The insider: film, interviewed on 60 minutes.
- non addictive cigarettes, didn‟t cause ill health effects
- inventor‟s life ruined by the invention
- tobacco companies were squashed
- Family and daughter‟s lives were threatened
Pelvic massage – paroxism, treated by physicians. Middle- upper classed women were
desexualized. Massage work was considered labourous and time consuming. Vibrator
invented to expedite the process. Physicians had kit in office. Difficult to separate social
New technologies – adopt first, evaluate later
Idea that to fix problems of medicine you need technology.
Prevalent in North America.
Medical technologies taken up before they are new before efficacy and safety are
o Eg. Electronic fetal monitoring
Originally only used in high risk births during labour.
70s EFM and ultrasound in most hospitals.
Then in offices in pre natal.
Now monitoring for even low risk pregnancies. Increasing C-section
Rate varies by region, race, socioeconomic status.
Not about medical necessity alone, ability to pay, where you live etc.
EFM assosicated with this and mgmt of births by obstetricians as
opposed to GPs or midwife.
Failed to find EFM more effective than low tech.
“Electronic fetal monitoring has failed as a public health screening program.
Nevertheless, most of the four million low-risk women giving birth in the United States
each year continue to undergo this screening.” – David A. Grimes & Jeffrey F. Peipert
What’s the Relationship Between Medical Technology and Society?
1. Technological Determinism: Technological → Society
Drives social development in an oppressive way.
In vitro fertilization oppressive, requires women to submit to extensive long
lasting hormone manipulation.
Pressure for women to use these technologies. Low success rate.
Tech determines what happens in society. 2. Social Determinism: Society →Technology
Technology is a blank slate, is whatever we make it
Society determines how it is used.
Social context determines w