Sociology | Social Problems & Policies
S101 | 10248 | Saulsbury
Topic: Medicine in America: Physicians, Patients, and their
Of all the products of modern science, medical care and treatment
are among the most familiar and the most desirable. We all would
like to see a cure for cancer and AIDS, affordable and accessible
health care, ethical treatment of patients, rapid dissemination of
effective new drugs, and so on. Yet present-day medicine and health
care are flashpoints for a bewildering array of controversies about
whose interests the health care system should serve and how it
should be organized; about the security and reliability of the
medical knowledge we rely on when we are confronted with the threat
of illness; about the politics and ethics of biomedical research;
about whether health care can be made affordable and how its
benefits can be shared equitably; and about the proper roles of
health professionals, scientists, patients, and consumer groups in
establishing medical and ethical priorities.
This course provides a broad introduction to the sociological study
of illness, the health professions, and the health-care industry in
the United States. It analyzes the cultural meanings associated
with health and illness; the political controversies surrounding
health care, medical knowledge production, and medical decision-
making; and the structure of the social institutions that comprise
the health care industry.
The course is designed to address a broad range of questions
including: how does the experience of illness change people's lives
and identities? How should the risks and benefits of new medical
technologies be evaluated? Why do doctors and patients have trouble
communicating? Is better cooperation possible between doctors and
nurses? Should health care be considered a right or a commodity?
Is a just system of health insurance a practical goal? And finally,
who should decide ethical disputes concerning the use of medical
treatments, technologies, and procedures?