Doctor–Patient Relationships

Although I have tried in this book to present a coherent critical view, I have not sacrificed coverage of topics that professors have come to expect. Consequently, this book covers essentially all the topics that have become standard over the years, including doctor–patient relationships, the nature of the U.S. health care system, and the social distribution of illness. In addition, I include several topics that until recently received relatively little coverage in other textbooks in the field, includ- ing bioethics, mental illness, the medical value system, the experience of illness and disability, and the social sources of illness in both more and less developed nations. As a result, this text includes more materials than most teachers can cover effectively in a semester. To assist those who choose to skip some chapters, each important term is printed in bold the first time it appears in each chapter, alerting students that they can find a definition in the book’s Glossary. (Each term is both printed in bold and defined the first time it appears in the book.)

In addition, reflecting my belief that sociology neither can nor should exist in isolation but must be informed by and in turn inform other related fields, several chapters begin with historical overviews. For example, the chapter on health care institutions discusses the political and social forces that led to the development of the modern hospital, and the chapter on medicine as a profession discusses how and why the status of medicine grew so dramatically after 1850. These discussions provide a context to help students better understand the current situation.

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