This term refers to illness brought on by medical treatment and literally means "generated by doctors." It was first popularized (at least into sociology) by Ivan Illich.

Illich argued that it "far outweighed the benefits of medical science." Heavy handed without a doubt but the effects are pretty obvious. Even if this phenomenon is incorporated into a role /status structure, it is a widespread occurrence.

Illich broke iatrogenesis into three groups:

  1. Clinical : the group that deals with bad health contracted while hospitalized. It ranges from downright malpractice of health care professionals to unknown side effects of medicines.
  2. Social : The idea that medical practice encourages hypochondriacs and makes people feel helpless and unable to control their own bodies. Illich thought that this variety undermined independence and left people at the mercy of a ruthless medical industry.
  3. Cultural : thought to sabotage healthy responses to suffering and death. That sounds a little obscure but it basically means that most folks, at least in the United States respond to sickness, pain, or imminent death by trying to prevent or alleviate it.

    Theory always sounds a little wacky so you'll have to pardon some of the sketchiness of these ideas. At the core they're pretty relevant but it's important to note that the source of this theory thought that the professionalism of medicine outweighed its benefits.

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