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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

Undergraduate Course: Sociology of Medicine (STIS10013)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryMedicine is so pervasive in the modern Western world it seems difficult sometimes to understand what 'it' is. In Sociology of Medicine (SoM) we explore the complex ways medicine is shaped by, and in turn, shapes us and the world we live in; whether medicine can be conceived as a system of knowledge, a form of power or an example of professional practice. The course focuses on some of the core theoretical insights that have emerged from the sociological studies of medicine, health, disease, and illness and is divided into two sections. In the first part, we look at the nature of medical professions, the relationships between clinicians and patients, biomedical power and knowledge, the rise of information communication and technology, empowered patient subjectivity and patient activism. In the second half of the course, we will discuss the rise and status of public health (including some reflections on the social consequences of the coronavirus) and key contemporary issues in biomedicine (such as geneticisation, pharmaceuticalisation and cyborgisation). We discuss the social and ethical consequences of these new medical (bio)technologies that may go 'beyond therapy' to enhancement. The question that runs throughout the course is whether, there is occurring a wider transformation from medicalisation to biomedicalization that has changed what medicine 'was'.

NOTE FOR 2022-23: Some teaching activity will be delivered asynchronously.
Course description The course is designed to provide a broad overview of the sociology of medicine. Topics covered include, the nature and role of professional organisation in medicine; critical analyses of the medicalization and (bio)medicalization of society; social dynamics that shape experiences of health, illness and disease; micro and macro factors that influence the interactions between patients and medical professionals; patient organisations, health social movements and the shifting roles, identities and expertise of patients; the social impact of geneticisation, pharmaceuticalisation and cyborgisation for patients, professionals, and policy-making. The course will combine insights from sociological work on medicine, health, disease, and illness, and applied research and case studies on contemporary topics and controversies. Students will engage with and analyse a range of different materials from media representations of patients through to texts of doctor-patient interactions and health-related policy documentation and are encouraged to be reflexive and creative throughout.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 4 humanities or social science courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) short summative essay (1500 words) constituting 30% of the final mark.«br /»
A long summative essay (3500 words) constituting 70% of the final mark.
Feedback Students will receive detailed written feedback on both summative assignments. We will expect regular contributions and presentations from students, both online and in the classroom. During lectures and tutorials students will receive regular oral feedback.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand the historical context, key theoretical insights, and practical application of sociological studies of medicine.
  2. Develop a critical understanding of Western scientific medicine as a profession, institution, system of knowledge, form of power, and therapeutic practice.
  3. Understand how Western scientific medicine has evolved and transformed, including issues such as how and why biomedicine has come to dominate understandings of disease, the processes of medicalization, demedicalization and biomedicalization, and shifting challenges to medical power including health consumerism and the rise of patient experts.
  4. Apply complex concepts and critical thinking to key contemporary issues and policy challenges pertaining to biomedicine.
  5. Interpret, evaluate, and use a wide range of different types of data, empirical material and arguments relating to the social dimensions of medicine, health, disease, and illness.
Reading List
Awofeso, N. (2004). What's new about the "new public health"? American Journal of Public Health, 94(5), 705-9.
Conrad, P. (1992). Medicalization and Social Control. Annual Review of Sociology, 18, 209-232.
Dolezal, L. (2017). Representing Posthuman Embodiment: Considering Disability and the Case of Aimee Mullins. Women¿s Studies, 46(1), 60¿75.
Duschinsky, R. and Paddison, C. (2018) The final arbiter of everything: a genealogy of concern with patient experience in Britain, Social Theory and Health, 16(1), 94-110.
Epstein, S. (1996). Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge. University of California Press.
Harris, A. Kelly, S. and Wyatt, S. (2014) Autobiologies on YouTube: narratives of direct-to-consumer genetic testing, New Genetics and Society, 33(1), 60-78.
Nettleton, S. (2021) The Sociology of Health and Illness, Polity Press, Cambridge.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Fadhila Mazanderani
Course secretaryMr Brodie Hamilton
Tel: (0131 6)51 3139
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