Screech! The careless driver slams on his breaks and smashes into a silver grey Toyota driving along on the deserted freeway.
My relative, the law abiding citizen, spins through four lanes of the 101 freeway as she loses control of the car. The offender reluctantly pulls over. Totally dazed my relative is unable to register what has just happened. All she feels is the searing pain in her neck and shoulder. All it took was one careless driver and the damage was done in one reckless second. My relative had just been in her first car accident within a few months of our family settling in California.
My relative is a strong woman. She is there not only for our family of three, but also for our friends and other relatives who count on her for everything. Unfortunately, the cervical disc prolapse, frozen shoulder, and six week bed rest led to this everyday dependence relationship to fall apart. The three sociology theories functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism relate to the experiences my relative had as a sick patient navigating the medical system.
A sick individual affects social institutions such as their family, their religion, government, the economy, and education. Manifest functions are defined as the elements of a social process that are “sought or anticipated” (Griffiths 15) A manifest function of a sick individual is to leave their role in society so they can recover quickly. Since my relative was on bedrest, many of her chores fell on the other family members to complete (impacting the family). She also needed assistance with simple activities such as lifting, driving, and cooking that became an immediate struggle. Another manifest function of a sick individual would be seeking help by going to a hospital. The hospital my relative went to provided her excellent healthcare. Latent functions are defined as the “unsought consequences” of a social process.
(Griffiths 15) A positive latent function of sick patients at a hospital would be that doctors would get experience working with different types of diseases and illnesses. These sick patients also allow jobs to be created for doctors and specialists in hospitals (impacting the economy) to treat them. They also help government agencies such as the CDC to record data about their illnesses and diseases. (impact government) Another latent function of sick individuals is that they turn to religion to cure them or solve their problems. Religious institutions are functioning because of these individuals. (impact religion) I know my relative consulted her religious priest to support her through this phase. Latent dysfunctions are defined as social processes that have undesirable consequences for the operation of society.
(Griffiths 15) One latent dysfunction of sick individuals would be with reference to healthcare in hospitals. These sick patient will look for doctors who are culturally competent, (impact education) and when they don’t find one their trust in the medical system will decline. This not only causes a decline in economy, because less patients would be seen by doctors, but also negatively impact the government became less data would be collected by the CDC. My relative did not get the culturally competent care that she was looking for.
She believed in alternative medical treatments to cure her cervical disc prolapse and frozen shoulder. Her first doctor did not understand the medical treatment options she sought. This frustration impacted her relationship not only with the doctor, but also her family members. She became less patient because she wasn’t getting the type of care that she needed. Fortunately, we found another doctor who was more understanding that the first one. The conflict theory centers on how individual in a society “compete for limited resources” (Griffiths 16) These limited resources are medications and treatments. The conflict in this situation is not only occurring between powerful insurance companies and sick people as a whole, especially disadvantaged individuals.
As an expansion of conflict theory, critical theory addresses structural issues causing inequality by identifying the issues, the people who can make changes, and provide reachable goals for social transformation (Griffiths 17) Tom Cleary tells us why medications are so expensive in his Social Medical Journal article called “Undone science and blind spots in medical treatment research.” He shows us how “elites” allow some research priorities to “gain precedence” over others for their own economic profit by redirecting research for less expensive treatments to “maximize short term profit” of pharmaceutical companies from the patent system. (Cleary, 2011:235) Here we see that the big companies are the “haves” who now control the availability of drugs to the sick population, the “have nots.” These companies are looking for profit rather than looking for ways to benefit the community. Sick or low income individuals don’t have access to cheaper treatments that could potentially save them.
If the “have nots” gain power they would push for the research of more effective medications, and make these medicines more economically available to disadvantaged individuals. The “have nots” would go out of business because their products wouldn’t be contracted by research labs and their products wouldn’t be bought anymore. My relative’s medications were expensive and no one informed us about the possibility of less expensive treatments. Fortunately, these additional costs were not a problem for us because our insurance covered the expenses. But for other individual with little to no coverage, they have to dig into college savings, take second mortgages because their insurance would not cover the costs. This would create a vicious cycle that would cause generation after generation to fall into debt.Symbolic interactionism concentration on the exchange of meaning that individuals have for language and symbols to make sense of their social worlds. (Griffiths 17) The most important symbols are a lab coat and visible impairments.
In society, a person wearing a lab coat in a hospital would be immediately labeled as a doctor and a person of medical knowledge. Patients see doctors as their primary source of medical information and they rely on them for the correct information. My relative was a doctor herself so she knew that the doctors were telling her the right information. She could even give her own opinion and suggestions for her own treatments. Individuals such as the rest of our family had to rely on the doctors’ advice on how to take care of the patient. In other words, we blindly followed the treatments, advice, or suggestions given without question. This can pose as a problem if the medical professional is not giving the right information.
Another symbolic interaction element that came up during this situation would be the effect of visible impairments on physician interactions. Normally, physicians should be conversing and connecting with the patient directly rather than turning to their family members. Our doctor viewed my relative’s impairment and accident as a reason to look towards other family members when explaining the types of medications and different therapies my relative needed. A dramaturgical analysis, individuals can improve his or her role as the situation unfolds, (Griffiths 18) can be used to describe the response of my relative. Feeling isolated from the conversation was really frustrating to my relative, so she immediately disclosed that she was a physician herself. After this the conversation was more directed to her. In the event my relative did not speak English or was not a physician the doctor would have acted differently.
He would have looked toward the caregiver or other older family members to relay medication information. Having no guidance and dealing with doctors who are making your medical decisions can be difficult. These symbols will change and are changing when individuals become more health literate.
They will start questioning their physicians and become more involved in their medical care.In the end, my relative did get better, but she is limited by certain movements and cannot engage in vigorous activities. There are so many theories that could connect to this scenario. Through this experience I saw how a sick individual can affect the people around them and navigate the medical system at the same time. Word Count: 1342