Parsons was a functionalist sociologist who introduced the sick role. He argues that being sick means that the sufferer enters a role of sanctioned deviance. Being sick is not a state of fact or condition it is a specifically patterned social role. It compromises of 2 rights and 2 duties. Being sick is not simply a state of fact or condition it contains customary rights and obligations based on social norms thats surround it.
Parsons believes that a person who is sick enters a role of sanctioned deviance, this is because a sick individual is not a productive member of society. This deviance needs to be policed which he believes should be policed by a medical profession. Patrons argued that the best way to understand illness sociologically is to view it as a form of deviance which intern disturbs the social function of society. The individual who falls sick is not just physically sick but adheres to the specifically patterned social role of being sick. The sick person is now expected to see that being sick as undesirable thus they have an obligation to try to get well, therefore exemption from normal responsibilities is temporary and conditional on trying to get better. The Sick person has an obligation to seek technically competent help from a suitably qualified professional and to cooperate in the process of trying to recover.
Parsons sick role has 2 underlying value themes these are Vulnerability and deviance. The theme of vulnerability is because of the renting symptoms, they are passive, trusting and prepared to wait for medical help they are vulnerable and open to exploitation by others, Patient must submit to bodily inspection, high potential for intimacy, breaches social taboos, Patient doctor relationship unequal, requires a high level of trust therefor social regulation is required to protect vulnerable patient. The theme deviance is an important concept as the sick can be viewed as a social threat because they are relieved of social obligations. The more who feel sick the greater the threat to the social system, sickness may be used to evade responsibility, society may be exploited. The medical precession acts as a gate keeper against this from of deviance, they provide a form of social regulation to protect society.
There are also some criticism of parsons sick role, these include rejecting the sick role, the model assumes that the individual voluntarily accepts the sick role, the individual may not comply with expectations of the sick role model, may not give up social obligations, ,ay resist dependancy, may avoid public sick role if their illness is stigmatised, individual may not accept passive patient role. another criticism is the doctor patient relationship, seeing the doctor may be the end process of help seeking behaviour. Differential treatment of patient, and differential doctor patient relationship-varations depend on social class, gender and ethnicity.
As mentioned above parson believed that being sick means that the sufferer enters a role of sanctioned deviance and that being sick requires roles and obligations to be fulfil including seeing a doctor they are given an exemption from everyday lives general duties until there return to a well state. There are a few critisms of the sick role which include people may reject the sick role and not follow the obligations of society, the doctor patient relationship also needs to be taken into consideration, along with chronic illness as the sick role does not fit in with the idea of long term illness.
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