sick role

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sick role


patient role

sickness viewed as a special status and as the basis of social identity, and distinguished from illness as a biomedical category.

The concept originated from PARSONS’ (1951) discussion of the role of medicine in industrial societies and describes a form of socially sanctioned deviance possessing the following characteristics:

  1. the sick person is exempted from normal social responsibilities;
  2. the sick person cannot be expected to look after himself or herself;
  3. the sick person is expected to desire a return to normality;
  4. the sick person is expected to seek competent professional help.

According to Parsons, being sick interferes with normal social responsibilities and permits exemption from them. Consequently it may sometimes also be a status desired by those unwilling to meet their social obligations. Medicine therefore can be seen as having the function of social control in addition to a therapeutic one. It deters malingerers and promotes an awareness of social obligation among the sick.

Parsons’ formulation has been subjected to much criticism on empirical and theoretical grounds. Nevertheless, the 'sick role’ continues to be used as a sensitizing and organizing concept for empirical studies of interaction in clinical settings by the SOCIOLOGY OF HEALTH AND MEDICINE. See also SYMPTOM ICEBERG, TRIVIAL CONSULTATION.

References in periodicals archive ?
Extracted from their private environments, Sybil and Wanda are initially situated within the classical sick role, taking on characteristics of the more technological risk role when their diagnoses turn out to be complicated and they are submitted to a battery of tests.
Benefits Interdisciplinary communication and teamwork Individualized goal-setting and attainment with professional assistance Availability and access to services Assistance for family and caregivers Sense of camaraderie among Soldiers in a military unit setting/ structure Considerations/Concerns Potential for extended care/recovery times Receiving a medical disability rating may incentivize sick role behavior Financial incentive of disability may create risk of secondary gain and symptom magnification
Szasz suggests that the reason the 'hysteric' takes on the sick role is because:
Another possibility, noting that the patient moved across the country so that her elderly mother could care for her in her illness, is that assuming the sick role might have placed her in a situation that mandated the attention and care that her mother may not have given her in childhood.
It should be taken into account in the differential diagnosis in the context of soldiers who are suspected of avoiding military duties by assuming the sick role.
Factitious disorder is described in the DSM-IV-TR as an intentional production or feigning of physical or psychological signs or symptoms in which the motivation for the behavior is to assume the sick role.
The sick role required of women included unquestioning obedience to doctors and invisibility to the public.
Using Greene and Krueter's definitions, each response choice reflects a different health care motivation including wellness (defined as optimizing health among the self-identified healthy), preventive health (defined as preventing illness among the self-identified healthy), at risk (defined as preventing illness among the currently healthy who are at heightened risk to develop a specific condition), sick role (defined as getting well among those self-perceived as ill with an emphasis on therapist-directed treatment), and self care (defined as getting well among those self-perceived as ill favoring the use of self vs.
But maybe in the ER they can get Tylenol with codeine, which has a resale value, or maybe the headache is connected with family problems, and they can score some points against the other side by taking on the sick role.
While this trend suggests that medical models of care may be attempting to resolve the power differential between health care providers and patients, it is important to recognize that, given the multitude of disparities people with disabilities continue to face, they confront an even longer journey than their able-bodied counterparts to fully transition from a sick role status to become empowered partners in their own health care.