What is the sociology of diagnosis?
The Role of Diagnosis in Health and Wellbeing: A Social Science Perspective on the Social, Economic and Political Costs and Consequences of Diagnosis
In 1978, Mildred Blaxter called upon sociologists to pay more attention to medical diagnosis, both as a category and as a process. More than thirty years later, she published an authoritative autobiographical paper that critically reflected upon the diagnostic pathway which led to the identification of her own, ultimately fatal cancer (Blaxter, 2009). Her insights into the nuances of diagnostic processes within the health care system provide important clues to the areas that demand attention in relation to diagnosis. Despite her earlier call, and its subsequent echo, via the work of Phil Brown (1995) it is only very recently that the sociology of diagnosis has finally begun to take shape and garner interest. Jutel (2009) published an (already) extensively cited review article in Sociology of Health and Illness, and has elaborated the arguments in her book Putting a Name to It: Diagnosis in Contemporary Society (2011). With Nettleton, she guest-edited a Special Issue of Social Science & Medicine titled ‘A Sociology of Diagnosis’ (Jutel and Nettleton, 2011) which attracted several dozen submissions. Although rooted in medical sociology, this subfield draws upon related fields of study including science and technology studies, medical anthropology, organisational sociology, health policy, economics, bio-ethics and political debates on new social movements.
The overall aim of the seminar series is to further develop the sociology of diagnosis. The seminars have elicited debate around the practices, costs and consequences of diagnosis within and beyond academic circles and explored how health care institutions, professionals, managers, practitioners, patients and carers shape and respond to the shifting nature of diagnosis. Building upon the current international interest in diagnosis, the seminars have extended the debates beyond academic circles. They have offered an important opportunity for a network to coalesce and form a critical mass and the establishment of an ongoing association of professionals and researchers working on the costs and consequences of diagnosis.
The Seminar Series has been prepared and presented by a group of 7 new and established academics who have worked on aspects of diagnosis. Five day-long seminars (described on subsequent pages) provided fora for intellectual and policy debate on: (1) conceptual considerations; (2) the ramifications of ‘high-tech’ interventions and innovations; (3) the negotiated and politicised nature of contested diagnoses; (4) the impact of diagnostic processes of practitioner and patients and (5) the policy and practice implications.
Due to highly positive feedback and popular demand to keep the network and intellectual impetus going, a sixth and final seminar for postgraduate and early career researchers was included and took place in May 2015 in London.
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