Social science is defined as “the scientific study of human society and social relationships”. (Oxford Dictionaries 2013a) It is important to understand that different people would interact differently, giving rise to different different culture, social norms, beliefs and religions. By improving our understanding and awareness, we would be able to treat patients more efficiently and effectively whilst respecting their culture and beliefs. There is an increasing number of diseases and societal problems such as addiction, obesity, violence and end-of-life care that cannot be addressed without taking into account the behavioural or social factors. (Mann 2012)
Ethics can be defined as “moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity”. (Oxford Dictionaries 2013b) Doctors have a code of ethics that they should abide by when in medical practice. The aim of medical ethics is to protect and defend patients’ rights and dignity. (Elsayed et al. 2009) When these codes of ethics are taken in isolation, the principles are morally sound. However, they may conflict with each other. (Limentani, 1999)
Social science and ethics are important modules in medical education because they go beyond the technical knowledge required to be a doctor. They give medicine a more humane aspect by letting doctors understand patients as people. This would in turn improve relationships between patients and doctors, allowing medicine to become more integrated into the community, thus making it more affective.
The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate the importance of social science and ethics in medical education and medical practice. This will be achieved by addressing four main headings: social construction of medical and lay knowledge about health, illness and disease; significance of social determinants in shaping health and illness; significance of understanding patient experiences for medical practice; ethical and legal principles important in medical practice. All four main topics will be explored with examples, supported by critical analysis of evidence.
Social construction of medical and lay knowledge about health, illness and disease
This section will explore the development of medical and lay knowledge, addressing the various factors that come into play. Social construction is the development of understanding, significance and meaning in concordance with other people, not just within one person. (Berger et al. 1991) To say that medical and lay knowledge are socially constructed is to highlight their “dependence on contingent aspects of our social selves”. (Boghossian 2001: 1)
Medical knowledge are “facts established by exchange and circulation of ideas and experience among scientists, doctors and patients”. (Blaxter 2010: 30) An example of a product from the exchange and circulation of ideas is the biomedical model, which is widely used and accepted by healthcare professionals. It focuses on the biological aspect and excludes...