The sick role is a role, which a sick person can absorb, when the disease accrues a special status with positive or negative consequences for the person concerned. This term was first proposed by L. Henderson. Then T. Parsons began using it. From a sociological point of view, the disease can be seen as a form of social rejection, in which the individual plays a specific role. The role of the patient has four main features:
- The exemption from normal social responsibilities.
- The sick person is not guilty that he/she is sick.
- The patient has to seek competent professional help, because the disease is socially undesirable.
- It is expected that the person in the role of a patient will obey to the regime prescribed by a competent physician.
The sick person has a special place in society. It is expected that the patient wants to get well, and therefore to seek help, to assist the physician in his/her recovery. The sick person frees from normal public duties, for example, work or study. Other people take care of the sick person. The concept of the sick role has been criticized on various grounds. With its help the necessary distinction between the patient and the role of the patient is made and being sick does not necessarily mean accepting a patient status. Sometimes the role of the patient undertakes those who want to get rid of the burden of social obligations. In such circumstances, professional services, including medical and social, are required to assess the true state of a person and the legitimacy of the sick role.
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