Purpose – This chapter examines medical consumerism and the changing relations between patients as consumers and the medical system across two women's health contexts…
Purpose – This chapter examines medical consumerism and the changing relations between patients as consumers and the medical system across two women's health contexts, breast cancer and infertility.
Methodology/approach – The analysis draws on two qualitative studies: The first explores the experiences of 60 breast cancer survivors through in-depth interviews and participant observation (Sulik, 2005), and the second uses in-depth interviews to analyze 18 women's experiences with infertility (Eich-Krohm, 2000).
Findings – The medical consumer is an individualized role that shifts attention away from the quality problem in health care and toward the quality of the person as a medical consumer who is characterized to be optimistic, proactive, rational, responsible, and informed.
Research limitations/implications – As medicine has become a form of mass consumption, the category of medical consumer has elevated the individual in medical decision-making. The shift from patient to medical consumer is an ongoing process that is grounded in a tension between medical control and individual agency, and is exacerbated by the intensity and incomprehensibility of modern medicine.
Practical implications – The proliferation of medical information and personal illness narratives through the Internet, advice books, and self-help groups have advanced lay knowledge about preventive medicine and medical treatment while simultaneously introducing new fears and anxiety about the multitude of options and outcomes.
Originality/value of chapter – This study contributes to our knowledge on medical consumerism and its impact on illness experience and the synthesis of lay and professional knowledge.