Role of health professionals in society

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  • Created on: 10-05-13 19:15

Functionalist approach

  • Medical professionals help society to function effectively
  • Barber argued that medical professionals are very important for society because they deal with people when they are in particuarly vulnerable positions.
  • Therefore it is in the interest of society to have the very best people who maintain the highest standards to provide medical care
  • Professions have the following traits: theoritical basis to their knowledge, fully trained to the highest posssible standard, competence is tested by examination, has a strict role of ethics, regulated and controlled through an organisation (The general medical council)
  • Parsons saw sickness as a social state and a potential threat to social order, as too much sickness could be deviant for society. So people need to be legitimately defined as sick by doctors to enter the sick role. Therefore doctors have a significant role to play in promoting the sick role and ensuring that sickness doesn't become deviant
  • medical profession promotes universalism and affective neutrality- the sick are treated ethically and equallly regardless of cultural characteristics such as class, gender and ethnicity
  • Medical professionals are primarly altruistic- serve the public interest rather than pursue private gain
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  • The Hippocratic oath is indicative of their social commitment
  • Health professionals play an important gate keeping role:
  • Dixon et al. note that access to healthcare is filtered by a hierarchy of levels with an initial gatekeeping role played by the GP, this involves initial diagnosis and then deciding whether the patient should be referred up the system to specialist practitioners
  • Forrest argues that this role is designed to ensure that healthcare services are matched to healthcare needs
  • The broader gate keeping role involves deciding whether individuals should officially be defined as sick and exempt from usual social responsibilities
  • The docotors objective is to return the patient to health
  • Sheeran, Goldacre, Fitzpatrick
  • For society to function in a stable and orderly manner institutions such as work, education, the family need healthy individuals and the porpuse of the health system is to ensure this need is met
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criticisms of functionalists

  • Waitzkin argues that for many years professional characteristics were mainly used as a barrier to prevent groups other than upper middle class, white males from entering the profession
  • existence of private medicine suggest that finacial reward may be the driving force for many doctors rather than public spirit
  • Illich suggest that medical intervention can do more harm than good and cause alot of illness (iatrogenesis)
  • many chronic illness can not be cured
  • Doctors are not objective
  • Clinical iceberg of illnesses
  • assumes that patient and doctor relationship is always consensual which it may not be
  • BMA protects professional interests like high imcomes by limiting entrance into the profession rather than serving the public interest
  • alternative models of health are seen as dysfunctional
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