Tolerance and Illness: The Politics of Medical and Psychiatric Classification
Glackin, Shane Nicholas
The Journal of medicine and philosophy 2010 Aug; 35(4): 449-65
In this paper, I explore the links between liberal political theory and the evaluative nature of medical classification, arguing for stronger recognition of those links in a liberal model of medical practice. All judgments of medical or psychiatric "dysfunction," I argue, are fundamentally evaluative, reflecting our collective willingness or reluctance to tolerate and/or accommodate the conditions in question. Illness, then, is "socially constructed." But the relativist worries that this loaded phrase evokes are unfounded; patients, doctors, and communities will agree in the vast majority of cases about what counts as illness. Where they cannot come to agreement, however, we are faced with precisely the sort of dispute about values and ways of life that the institutions of the liberal state are designed to accommodate. I accordingly sketch a model of medical practice, based loosely on Jürgen Habermas's political theories, designed to maximize both our awareness and our understanding of these disputes.
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