Although everyone’s illness experience can be argued to be unique, Edward Suchman has designed a schema that portrays the five key stages of illness experience that most patients undergo. Suchman’s “five stages of illness experience” are the symptom experience, assumption of the sick role, medical care contact, dependent patient role and recovery and rehabilitation. Suchman’s “five stages of illness experience” are crucial to understanding the illness process of Robert Banes, but do not however depict an entirely accurate picture of his illness experience.
The first stage of the illness experience is symptom experience, which is where the individual first realizes that there is something wrong with them. At this moment, the individual undergoes through three distinct processes which are the physical pain or discomfort, the cognitive recognition that physical symptoms of an illness are present, and an emotional response of concern about the social implications of the illness (Weiss 143). At this point an individual can accept to seek help, delay treatment, or go into denial. Robert Banes was first diagnosed with focal glomerulosclerosis, a progressive scarring of the kidneys that will eventually destroy them, four years before his kidneys failed (Abrahams 10). However, Robert chose to ignore medical treatment because he had not been socially constructed to understand the perceived seriousness of his symptoms and because he did not have the means to accessible and affordable care (Abrahams 30-31). If Robert had been socially constructed in illness, then he never would have let his illness get so far as to lose his kidneys.
The second stage of the illness experience is the assumption of the sick role. In this stage, the individual relinquishes their normal roles in society. They can adhere to two behavioral exemptions, which are temporarily being excused from normal social roles and not being held responsible for their illness as long as they follow two behavioral obligations, which are desiring to get better and seeking medical advice and being cooperative with medical experts (Weiss 148). This stage of the illness experience does not accurately fit in with Robert’s experience. Robert Banes can not assume the sick role because he has obligations to his family. This stage is more beneficial for middle class patients who can afford to take time off of work in order to follow their doctor’s orders and get better. Robert is not in the position to be able to do that which is one of the reasons why he allows his illness to get worse before finally seeking treatment. This stage needs to take into account various social contexts that shape a person’s life.
The third stage of the illness experience is medical care contact, which is when and individual makes the choice to finally seek medical care. Various factors influence an individual’s choice to seek contact such as the background of the patient, the patient’s perception of illness, and the...