The development of modern medicine is on a very steep trajectory upward--a rise that began only about a hundred years ago. This rise is certainly quantitative, but it is accompanied by qualitative changes in the way we understand and deliver healthcare. This book begins with a look at three recognized periods of medical development--from 1900 until World War II, from the war until about 1980, and the period since 1980.
While the common response is to celebrate these developments, this book suggests that perhaps we should also be wary, especially of the qualitative changes. Since World War II, these medical developments have entered more and more areas of our lives. It is precisely this process of medicalization that should be critically examined. Since 1980 we have medicalized life itself. Drawing from medical sociology, the book examines four characteristics of contemporary Western health care: health as a system, risk as a means of understanding health, health as a commodity, and individual responsibility for health. Critical examination of these four tendencies in contemporary health care forms the core of the argument of this important book about the essence of biohealth and medical practice.