Medicalising short children with growth hormone? Ethical considerations of the underlying sociocultural aspects

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 21 (2):243-253 (2018)

In 2003, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of growth hormone treatment for idiopathic short stature children, i.e. children shorter than average due to an unknown medical cause. Given the absence of any pathological conditions, this decision has been contested as a case of medicalisation. The aim of this paper is to broaden the debate over the reasons for and against the treatment, to include considerations of the sociocultural phenomenon of the medicalisation of short stature, by means of a critical understanding of the concept of medicalisation. After defining my understanding of medicalisation and describing both the treatment and the condition of idiopathic short stature, I will problematise two fundamental issues: the medical/non-medical distinction and the debate about the goals of medicine. I will analyse them, combining perspectives of bioethics, medical sociology, philosophy of medicine and medical literature, and I will suggest that there are different levels of normativity of medicalisation. Ultimately, this study shows that: the definition of idiopathic short stature, focusing only on actual height measurement, does not provide enough information to assess the need for treatment or not; the analysis of the goals of medicine should be broadened to include justifications for the treatment; the use of growth hormone for idiopathic short stature involves strong interests from different stakeholders. While the treatment might be beneficial for some children, it is necessary to be vigilant about possible misconduct at different levels of medicalisation.
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DOI 10.1007/s11019-017-9798-6
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References found in this work BETA

Health as a Theoretical Concept.Christopher Boorse - 1977 - Philosophy of Science 44 (4):542-573.
The Concepts of Health and Illness Revisited.Lennart Nordenfelt - 2006 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 10 (1):5-10.

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How to Distinguish Medicalization From Over-Medicalization?Emilia Kaczmarek - 2019 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 22 (1):119-128.

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