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Cough! Hack! Wheeze!

November 10, 2007

Common Cold Plush Doll
I’ve been sick for awhile, so I haven’t really had the energy to post. Well, that’s not true, since I have had the energy to waste time on videogames and Metafilter. Regardless, being a sociologist-in-training, I can’t miss an opportunity to integrate theory into my daily life. Being sick, I naturally (naturally!) thought of Talcott Parson’s “sick role” concept, which states that a sick person has the following two rights and two obligations:

Rights:

  1. The sick person is exempt from normal social roles
  2. The sick person is not responsible for their condition

Obligations:

  1. The sick person should try to get well
  2. The sick person should seek technically competent help and cooperate with the medical professional

Under this, we see that it’s not my fault that I’m sick, and I get to skip class, as long as I rest and get plenty of fluids and see a doctor if necessary. I took some time off school, stayed home and slept in, drank tons of lemon and honey, and am finally starting to feel better. If, however, I didn’t do whatever I could to get well, I could be socially sanctioned. If, hypothetically of course, I had tried to go in to work on Thursday but had no voice and coughed all over everything, I could be sent home by the sociology secretary under direct orders to get some sleep and drink plenty of fluids. She even offered to write me a “mom’s note” excusing my absence if I needed it. Aww!

I guess the sick role would be problematic in cases of mental illness, or where the patient doesn’t identify as sick. How exactly are you supposed to try to get well from, say, ADHD or depression? What if your depression keeps you from seeking medical help and following their advice? Can you be blamed for your illness then? Obviously you shouldn’t be, but depressed people are often blamed for being depressed (Cheer up! Just try to be happy!). Homosexuality used to be seen as sick, and still is by many people. The gay kid is expected to go to ex-gay camp, get therapy, and do whatever he can to “get better,” and if he doesn’t he’s accused of wanting to be sick. What if your illness is chronic? Terminal?

Wow, suddenly I’m glad I just have a cold.

And if anyone is interested, the image at the top is a giant stuffed common cold microbe, from the GIANTmicrobes site. E.coli, Flesh Eating disease, Ebola, Stomach ache, and more.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Dr. Jim permalink
    November 12, 2007 2:31 am

    There is bound to be a prayer for what ails you…

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