Sociology of Medicine

Dr. Frank Elwell
E-Mail: felwell at

Required Texts:
Peter Freund and Meredith McGuire, 1999, Health, Illness, and the Social Body: A Critical Sociology, Third Edition, Prentice Hall: New Jersey

Catalog Description:
An examination of sociological perspectives on systems of medical care; particular emphasis will be placed upon the structure and organization of health care institutions and societal response to problems of illness and disease. Prerequisite: six hours of social science.

Course Objectives:
The aim of the course is to provide an introduction to sociological perspectives of medicine through an analysis of the writings of recent theorists, social observers, and researchers. We will investigate such topics as Epidemiology, medicalization, the organization of medical care, new technologies, and health care reform.

Course Organization:
Class time will be divided among (a) lecturing (about a 15 minute review of presentations beginning many class periods); (b) guest lectures; (c) video presentations; (d) student discussion and debate.

There will be a mid-term and a final exam.  The mid-term will consist of both short answer (about 10) and essays (say 4 out of 5) and cover the first three units (see below).  The final exam will be in the same format and will be comprehensive.  In addition, you are required to participate in the Medical Sociology Forum.  The weight of the grades will be as follows:

1/3 mid-term exam
1/3 forum participation
1/3 final-exam

Medical Sociology Forum:
Detailed instructions for Forum participation can be found through the link above. You are required to maintain this forum through the course of the semester. As stated above, this will be 1/3 of your final grade, so look at these instructions closely.

Academic Integrity:
By signing your name to a paper, text, quiz or other assignment, you are indicating that the work is yours and yours alone.  Any academic cheating will result in failure of the course.

Attendance Policy:
It is important that you attend both physically and mentally.  Forum participation is essential. Studying the text and the lecture/presentations are key. Inappropriate classroom behavior will cause you to be dismissed from the class.  Make-up exams will be administered immediately after the scheduled final exam.

Course Outline:
The table contains the overall topic organization and links to the lecture notes, as well as chapter assignments for each of the topics covered.  You will receive the sign-on and password to access the lecture notes when you sign up for the class list serve (see index page).
Unit: Topics: Presentations: Readings:
1) Epidemiology disease
stress and illness
access to care
ebola/lassa fever
Medical Sociology
Measures of Health
Stress and Health
Chapter 1-4
2) Medicalization of society social support
sick role
mental illness
chronic illness and disability
alternative healing
Mental Illness and OK Law
The Myth of Mental Illness
Chapters 5-8
3) Health Care Systems England
Health Care in Japan
Health Care in Sweden
U.S. Fee for Service
Midterm Exam      
4) Health Care Organizations I hospitals
nursing homes
insurance companies
pharmaceutical companies
Public Health
Social Control of Medicine
Physicians and Profit
Hospitals Today
Nursing Homes
Health Care Costs
Uninsured Americans
Chapter 9
5) New Technologies reproductive
genetic revolution 
and bioethics
Animal Transplants
Medical Technology
Chapter 10
6) Health Care Organizations II physicians
medical Supplies
The AMA and Pharmaceuticals
The Coming of the Corporations
Physicians and the Corporations
Controlling Hospital Costs
Chapter 11
7) Health Care Reform quality
government and the market
The Iron Triangle
Issues of the '90s
Tertiary and Primary Care
A Cultural Affair
Chapter 12
Final Exam      


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İFrank Elwell  Send comments to felwell at