Sociology | Social Problems & Policies
S101 | 3743 | Mossakowski


Topic:	Medicine in America: Physicians, Patients, & Their Problems

The United States has the costliest health care system in the world
yet it is criticized for its failure to cure society’s ills such as
cancer, heart disease and AIDS.  When people do get sick, many do not
have the financial means to pay for needed services or they may be
receiving inferior care because of their inability to pay for more
effective but costly treatment.  All of these issues deal with health
and medical care that all of us experience in one form or another.
	This course explores basic questions about a wide range of
topics dealing with the providers of care, the recipients of care,
and the larger context of health, illness, and disease.  What is
health?  What is illness?  Who is most likely to get ill?  How are
race, ethnicity, and social class related to the experience of
illness?  How do people seek care and what factors lead some to see a
doctor soon after experiencing symptoms while others wait until they
must seek emergency services?  What are “alternative” medical system
and who uses such treatment as acupuncture, chiropractic, and
homeopathy?  How do physicians decide who shall live and who shall
die?
	The course considers two parallel themes as we discuss the
provision of medical treatment and health services: (a) what are the
basic assumptions about the essential societal functions of medical
treatment and health services and (b) what are the basic purposes and
scope of services for the individual.  The importance of clarifying
the basic purposes of health services is highlighted by questions
such as what constitutes "appropriate service use" and “positive”
medical outcomes—is fundamentally shaped by our assumptions about the
purposes or functions of medical treatment in society.  Clarity about
these assumptions is necessary for appropriate service improvement
and advocacy.  The term, “services,” implies work performed and the
application of some technology, which is “useful” or “beneficial” to
the patient.  However, just what constitutes a “benefit”—i.e., what
the desired goals and outcomes are for the patient—is subject to some
debate.  In the course, we will discuss distinction among several
models that emphasize different goals in the treatment and care of
patients.