On Tuesday March 12, we’re pleased to invite you to the final installation of our winter discussion series. Our reading is a selection from Ivan Illich’s classic 1974 attack on the medical-industrial complex, Medical Nemesis. The Expropriation of Health.
Our reading explores three senses of “iatrogenesis”, or the injury done to life by medical practitioners and medicine more broadly: (1) clinical iatrogenesis, or the injury done to patients by ineffective, unsafe, and erroneous treatments; (2) social iatrogenesis, or the ‘medicalization’ of life, which refers to the vested interest in sponsoring sickness on the part of medical professionals, pharmaceutical companies, and medical tech companies; and finally, (3) cultural iatrogenesis refers to the destruction of traditional ways of dealing with, and making sense of, death, suffering, and sickness. Throughout, Illich shows how . the medicalization of life produces cultural incapacitation and unfreedom, as people lose their autonomous coping skills, and provoking the question—today—of what it would mean to begin to build up a collective capacity for health autonomy today?
We will be joined by a comrade from Woodbine’s health autonomy working group in New York, as well as a friend from Chicago with many years of experience working in emergency rooms and low-income clinics.