When we read Hamington’s “A Father’s Touch” weeks ago, I dismissed his argument that the morality of care could improve our society. Although I liked the concept of embodied care, I doubted its actual salience and transformative ability. Reading Iris Marion Young’s essay on pregnancy caused me to take a second look at the possibilities of embodied care, especially as it relates to the medical profession.
Iris Marion Young argues that the medical profession’s emphasis on curing patients leads to the labeling of various conditions as diseases, leaving pregnant women, aging women, children, persons with disabilities, and anyone outside of the norm feeling alienated from their own bodies. In her conclusion, she advocates that doctors should place a greater emphasis upon caring for patients, rather than curing them. This, she advances, would improve pregnant women’s experiences and decrease the alienation from their bodies that the medical profession creates.
Iris Marion Young notes that women already provide some of these caring roles in the medical profession, but are largely underappreciated, underpaid, and left to subordinate roles. Midwifery, as discussed last class, is an example of this. Midwifery places a greater emphasis on caring for than on curing a patient. However, it is still on the fringes of modern medicine. To be truthful, I hadn’t heard of or considered midwifery as a normal practice until our classroom discussion.
However, there are large obstacles to changing medicine to a care-based system that Iris Marion Young does not address. Practitioners would be averse to a care-based system because it would lessen the prestige of the profession. First, care would take away the current doctor/patient relationship, which has an a-symmetrical knowledge distribution and leaves the patient dependent on the doctor. I do not forsee doctors agreeing to concede power in their relationships with patients any time soon. Secondly, the principle of care itself is connected with womanhood and femininity. I cannot envision male doctors agreeing that they need to be more caring to patients, for fear of threat to their masculinity. Perhaps this is why female nurses are more often in caring capacities. Furthermore, We have learned in class that female-inundated fields tend to see salary decreases. Therefore, I assume that even if the medical field is not female-dominated, if it is dominated by a trait associated with femininity, it will see a decrease in prestige and compensation.
I feel that if care was associated with masculinity, it would have a greater chance of being included in the medical profession. However, as long care is associated with femininity and the feminine is looked down upon, I unfortunately do not see room for change.