Karen Lutfey Spencer (University of Colorado, Denver): "Reclaiming Patient Compliance Research in an Era of Increasingly Medicalized Medical Sociology"
Biomedical definitions of patient compliance have changed little since the concept was first popularized in the 1970s, and these definitions continue to dominate the research landscape across multiple disciplines—thereby potentially contributing to an ongoing medicalization of medical sociology. In this paper, I draw from sociological and anthropological traditions, as well as qualitative in-depth interview data with terminally ill patients (N=26) and their caregivers (N=16), to consider four key principles that are relevant to understanding compliance but underrepresented in existing literature: (1) patient-provider alignment about treatment plans is distinct from usage of medical services; (2) patient compliance is socially contextualized and accomplished; (3) compliance stances and identifies are projected into the future; and (4) conceptualization of compliance as active resistance to medicine overlooks alternative framings. Together, these principles help support the development of a sociological, integrated apparatus for reclaiming and empirically investigating this consequential concept.
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