The medicalisation of grief

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Medicalisation occurs when a phenomenon comes to be subject to medical study, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention. Whether a phenomenon ought to be medicalized should be decided on a case-by-case basis. Recent moves to remove ‘bereavement exclusions’ from psychiatric diagnostic manuals and to introduce grief-specific medical disorders have elicited criticisms from sceptics about grief’s medicalisation, but these criticisms can largely be blunted. This article first clarifies the nature of disputes about medicalisation, highlighting how these disputes do not concern whether a condition such as grief is clinically significant or whether it can generate illness, but whether the condition itself is rightfully categorized as potentially pathological. It then offers a stronger, philosophically grounded case against the medicalisation of grief, resting on how medicalising grief is likely to detrimentally alter the moral and political meanings attached to grief. Specifically, medicalizing grief will ‘normativize’ a medical vocabulary for evaluating grief that may impede authentic engagement with grief, validate a suspect ‘time slice’ model of human well-being that overlooks how grief can benefit a person’s life as a whole, and impede desirable sympathy or solidarity with grieving persons.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of the Philosophy of Medicine
EditorsThomas Schramme, Mary Walker
ISBN (Electronic)9789401787062
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Apr 2024


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