Medicalization as a surrogate for social policy

Author: Antonio Maturo
Submitted: Friday 4th of November 2011 01:05:15 PM
Submitted by: egf
Educational levels: expert, qc2, qc3


Medicalization can be considered as the extension of medical categories in aspects of human lives which were not medical until that moment (Conrad, 2009; Maturo, 2009). The main mechanism of medicalization is pathologization: the process through which a non-medical problem is defined as a disease or a disorder. There are many examples of medicalization: ADHD, premenstrual syndrome, panic attacks, social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, sexuality, cosmetic surgery, and ageing. Adele Clarke and Janette Shim (2009) have proposed to switch to “biomedicalization” as the doctors are not anymore critic in the process of medicalization described in the ‘70s by Illich. Biomedicalization recognizes the new role played by the “technoscientization” of biomedicine, the influence of pharmaceutical corporations and the transformation of bodies and identities. It seems that a medicalized healthscape could lead to the transformation of social problems into medical problems of the single individual therefore de-responsabilizing political and social institutions. On the other side, the emphasis on neurological dimensions might foster fatalism and passivity leading to the deresponsabilization of the individuals from their health choices. All this happening in a context where natural and artificial; normal and pathological; enhancement and treatment are increasingly blurred.


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Antonio Maturo. Medicalization as a surrogate for social policy. EUROGENE portal. November 2011. online:

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