THE SOCIOLOGICAL CRITIQUE OF THE BIOMEDICAL MODEL OF HEALTH AND HOW IT AFFECTS WOMEN’S HEALTH
Biomedicine has been around since the middle of the nineteenth century as the major model used by health practitioners to detect diseases (Nettleton, 1995).This biomedical model of health have centred on how the human body functions and how diseases can be stopped, or healed through medical intervention(Taylor and field 2003). This model continues to be the bedrock in which foundation of health care system is based in the western societies, but there has being a lot of queries concerning its influence on the general pattern of health, since majority of health determinant are social and environmental. Arkinson (1988 p.180)claimed that the biomedical model, which as taken over the formal health care system in the West since the last two centuries view health along the reductionist approach. In this approach illness is said to be caused by injury or infections and there is neglect to the psychological, socio-economic and environmental influences (Taylor and field 2003).
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Over the last two centuries the biomedical model has being greatly challenged by scholars in the medical (Engel, 1981) and sociological field. This criticism was brought about by the drastic increase in the medical expenses. Engel (1981) stated that the effectiveness of the medical model has been over emphasized. Mc Keown (1976) also argued that the reduction in the death rate which happened some years back within the developed world was influenced by good eating habit and proper hygiene than it was with immunisation, and other health care intervention. This view was supported by Powles (1973) by re-emphasizing that spending money on health care system had led to nothing but wastage. Illich (1990) also argued that instead of medicine providing a curative assistance to the populace, it added more to their problem by introducing what is called iatrogenesis which means “Doctor-caused illness”,for example, the aftermath effect of using drug and some harmful effect of surgery. Illich(1990) blamed the health care providers and the pharmaceutical companies of inventing the social iatrogenesis .This brought into limelight consumption of health care product which was caused by increase health need. He also testified that the system of medicalisation also brought about what we call cultural iatrogenesis, which means that the medical industry has robbed people off the ability to cope with pains and illness .Illich (1990) argued that human being should try to avoid the control of medicine over their lives. He claimed that the monopoly of medicine over cure should be stopped, so that people can make decision on their way of life.
Stryer and Clancy (2005) reported that in Britain it was estimated that around 10% of people hospitalised undergo some kind of iatrogenisis, which is equivalent to roughly 850.000 occurrence per year. Health is said to be highly medicalised in this model which led to a general view of human beings (Illich, 1976).Oakley, 1976 and Donnison, 1977 reported this fact about medical jurisdiction by citing an example of childbirth. This was taken away from women by the institute of medicine by ensuring that by the 1970s all child delivery took place in the hospital (Tew, i990).This action made pregnant women to be handled like a sick person. In this respect a normal life experience was turned into a medical problem, which requires the assistance of the medical team (Martin, 1989).
The model focuses mainly on the healing process which is at a disadvantage to prevention and health promotion care closer to the populace (Taylor and field 2003). Engel (1981) stated that biomedicine has refused to acknowledge the fact that the human body is linked with the social environment. Nettleton (1995) reiterated that the biomedical model neglected the presence of the social inequalities in health. He also argued that for effective treatment, the lay people experience about health and illness must be acknowledged.
According to the perspective of Marxists, he argued that doctors encourage the production rate of the society by explaining health as the potential to work, he also disseminated that “working is better than idleness”(Waitzkin, 1989).It was emphasized that the health professionals are blamed of medicalisation if they consider the societal influence of patient and if they ignore, the accusation still holds (Nettleton, 1995).
The gender bias within the biomedical domain was clearly emphasized from the conflict perspective (Nettleton,1995).It was cited by Nettleton from the feminist point of view that sexist ideologies of the medical profession present women as a second class citizen, compared to the men folks(Scully and Bart,1978;Martin,1989).For example, it was related by (Nettleton,1995)that the frequent female visit to the hospital and clinics compared to their male counterpart is because of the way their body is designed for childbearing and also for the care they provide for other family members.
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Foster (1989) stated that there are many ways in which the feminist criticize how the medical practitioners interact with patient. She reiterated that most of the female problems from the medical point of view need to be questioned. She supported are evidence by citing an example of menstrual pain among women. She said that some female overstretch the severity of the pain, while most ignores it(Foster,1989 p.339).She also mentioned that the medical practitioners considers male as first class citizen in the ways they interact with them compared to their female folks.
Gendered nature of power in biomedical research and clinical practice was related in the US Public Health Service Task Force (Patricia and Chiloe 1999).This was written in 1985 on women’s health issue. It was stated in it that there was neglect in the way women’s health was being handled .They argued that the biomedical research laid more emphasis on diseases that can cause high risk of mortality in men compared to the women despite that the diseases were not sex-specific like “breast cancer”. Robert (1990, 1992) also supported this fact by accepting that male gender still stands as a measure to evaluate the status of health of both sexes, despite the clamour to broaden people’s knowledge about women’s health. Patricia and Chiloe (1999) reported that a social policy was promulgated by the Federal Food and Drug Administration in 1993.This was brought about to put a stop to the incessant use of women as research animals and to decrease the problem that could occur if foetus is exposed to research.
Women’s health was endangered through abortion brought about by the biomedical model. This view was supported by Foster (1989)by relating that the doctors assist the male by encouraging the female to undergo tuba ligation which is a form of family planning that make women sterile forever. This action favours the male, but detrimental to the female forever because of inability to get pregnant. This shows that the men has really dominated the world and do not care about the well being of women. The radical feminist cited by Nettleton (1995) accepted that the western medicine have given men too much opportunity compared to the women. This has allowed men to take over the women’s bodies. It was suggested that this process can be controlled by ensuring that women doctors treat the sick women within the society that is antiracist, anti-sexist, and anti-heterosexist (Williams,1989;Abbott and Wallance,1990).This idea was also argued from another point of view by the reformist that the health system need to be changed from within .This is to ensure that female doctors are also employed in greater number and also enforcing accountability by the medical practitioners.
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