Medicalization of society?

After reading part one of Cahalan’s Brain on Fire, I learned that the human body is a very complex system.  It is not that I hadn’t thought about this before, but Cahalan’s detailed accounts of her symptoms and endless hospital visits made it evident that not all dysfunctions of the body have a definitive cause and cure. Cahalan had a host of symptoms that seemingly sprung up out of nowhere, and each medical specialist she visited had a different take on what she was afflicted by. The expansive combination of psychological and physical symptoms she experienced made the process of arriving at a conclusive diagnosis increasingly difficult.

The above leads me to the following question: How do healthcare practitioners approach/treat such “medical mysteries?” In the book, it is clear that not only did the various specialists she visited have different perspectives and approaches to treating her illness, but it was also clear that not all of the doctors took into account her full medical history (and all factors that could influence her health). This is not a critique of the healthcare system; however, I think it is worthy to address the ease in which medication can be prescribed, and was in her case.

This particular anecdote Cahalan describes in the book reminded me of what is referred to as the medicalization of society.  This topic has come up in a number of sociology courses I have taken, and has inevitably been touched upon in our class discussions. Is this an ethical issue that needs to be explored critically? While medical treatments undoubtedly alleviate and cure many dysfunctions of the body, are medical treatments (e.g. pills) being distributed too frequently? What direction are we headed in, and what implications do these current trends have for the future of medicine?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIbz9ms9Z9k

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