300.2 Fragmentation of the medical profession and CAM: A consequence of CAM 's closure strategies in Portugal

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 12:45 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Joana ALMEIDA , Centre for Criminology and Sociology, Royal Holloway University of London, United Kingdom
Recent sociological research has shown that complementary and alternative medicine's (CAM) recent strategies of closure have had an impact on the medical profession, as the latter has shifted from a position of rejection to a position of selective incorporation of CAM in many Western countries. The consequences of this shift, such as the destabilisation of group cohesion and collective identity within the medical profession, have not been properly analysed and understood. The proposed paper is part of broader research that has been conducted in Portugal about the current relationship between CAM and the medical profession. A main research concern has been answering the following research question: To what extent have the medical profession and CAM been cohesive in their interplay in Portugal?

This study concentrates on two main CAM therapies, acupuncture and homeopathy. Data are derived from documentary search and in-depth interviews with 10 traditional acupuncturists, 10 traditional homeopaths, 10 orthodox medical doctors not committed to CAM and 11 orthodox medical doctors committed to CAM. The data analysis suggested that a main consequence of the closure strategies enacted by CAM has been that the medical profession and CAM have broken up into diverging factions with fragmentary views on CAM. First, the adoption of different stances towards CAM has been evident in the context of the relationship between the institutional elite of the Portuguese Medical Council and the rank and file medical doctors. Second, medical doctors committed to CAM called themselves ‘rule breakers’. This suggests looking at these professionals as being in a transitional or liminal stage i.e. in betwixt and between their profession. Third, CAM practitioners’ views on their scope and standards of practice and on their credentialism-making were far from uniform. The proposed paper aims to analyse this professional fragmentation in more detail.