Sociology 3321F/G Lecture Notes - Acne Vulgaris, Syphilis, Cash Machine
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Issues in Health Care
1) Medical Care: A Right or a Commodity?
- A primary controversy in the US is whether or not medical care is a right or a privilege. If it is a right,
then all citizens should have easy access to good medical care. If it is a privilege, then the rich will have
access to one type of care, the poor to another. Currently, medical care is not the right of citizens, but a
commodity to be sold at the highest price. Those with the money can buy better quality, while the poor
and uninsured must go without.
- There has been a significant increase in the cost of medical care since the 1960s.
2) Social Inequality
- Sociologists have found an inverse correlation between mental problems and social class. The lower
class bear many stresses that come with poverty; compared to middle- and upper-class Americans, the
poor have less job security, lower wages, more unpaid bills and insistent bill collectors, more divorce,
greater vulnerability to crime, more alcoholism, more violence, and more physical illness. Such
conditions deal severe blows to people’s emotional well-being.
3) Malpractice Suits and Defensive Medicine
- Physicians frequently practice defensive medicine – medical practices done not for the patient’s benefit
but in order to protect a physician from malpractice suits – adding several billion dollars to the nation’s
annual medical bill.
4) Medical Incompetence
- Medical incompetence is extensive and fatal. The Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National
Academy of Sciences, reports that each year between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans die at the hands of
doctors. If the number of Americans killed by medical errors were an official classification of death, it
would rank as one of the top ten leading causes of death.
5) Depersonalization: The Medical Cash Machine
- One of the main criticisms leveled against the medical profession is depersonalization – the practice of
dealing with people as though they were cases and diseases rather than as individuals. People feel that
the physician is impatiently counting minutes and tabulating dollars so that he or she can move to the
next patient and make more money.
6) Conflict of Interest