Challenging Medical Dominance Chapter 4
Main points • Medicine has encroached upon many aspects of life that were once considered normal or ‘natural’. This is termed ‘medicalisation’. • One example of medicalisation comes with pregnancy and childbirth. Doctors and medical technology can challenge women’s control and experiences of fertility. • Alternative, or complementary, medicine is becoming increasingly popular, due to an increased individualism, disengagement with community and dissatisfaction with mainstream medicine.
Medicalisation • A tendency to explain behaviour and experiences in medical terms. • What was once considered to be ‘natural’ is colonised by medicine. • This can be seen in a variety of areas from childbirth to sleep.
Reproductive technologies • A range of medical interventions (pharmaceutical and invasive), the purpose of which is either to promote or to prevent pregnancy. • Shift in childbirth from home supervised by lay women to hospital controlled by ‘expert’ men.
Medicalisation of childbirth • Demeans women and reduces experience of pregnancy and childbirth. • Women become passive objects rather than active participants. • Pregnant women’s views and opinions subordinate to that of doctor. • Unnecessary hospital as opposed to home births.
Alternatives to the mainstream • Alternative medicine embraces any medical practice that falls outside the boundaries of conventional medicine. • Some commentators use the term ‘complementary medicine’ to imply that non-conventional medicine can be used in conjunction with western biomedicine rather than as a radical alternative.
Reasons for using alternative medicine • Growing dissociation from civic society and mainstream society. • Rise of individualism. • Baby boomers’ and subcultural values. • Holistic and equal relationship. • Negative experiences of mainstream medicine and health care.