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1_Metzl and Herzig - Medicalization in the 21st century - An Introduction

1_Metzl and Herzig - Medicalization in the 21st century - An Introduction

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Essay Focus www.thelancet.com Vol 369 February 24, 2007 697 Medicalisation in the 21st century: Introduction Jonathan M Metzl, Rebecca M Herzig What is medicalisation? What are its causes and effects? Who benefits from medicalisation, and who is harmed? What, if anything, should be done about it? Answers to these questions would have seemed quite obvious in the 1970s, when the term entered academic and medical publications: medicalisation, the expansion of medical authority into the domains of everyday existence, was promoted by doctors and was therefore a force to be rejected in the name of specific kinds of liberation. Ivan Illich’s 1975 book, Limits to medicine: medical nemesis , 1 was the most influential early example of this usage of the term medicalisation. Illich, a philosopher, argued that the medical establishment posed a “threat to health” through the production of clinical, social, and cultural “iatrogenesis”. 1 For Illich, Western medicine’s notion of issues of healing, ageing, and dying as medical illnesses effectively “medicalised” human life, rendering individuals and societies less able to deal with these “natural” processes.
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