The implementation of medical advances: the constitution of Intensive Care Medicine as new speciality in a central hospital
Departament of Sociology / PhD student Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas da Universidade Nova de Lisboa Lisboa, Portugal
Medical work is mediated by sophisticated technological means. The ?transformative power? of technological innovation regarding health, illness and the body, and even the concept of human life, can be illustrated by the case of Intensive Care Units.
In the last half of the twentieth-century, we have witnessed the emergence and development of one of the most technologically significant areas in the field of Medicine ? Intensive Care Medicine. This is a differentiated and multi-disciplinary area in the field of medical sciences whose primary goal is the support and recovery of life functions in order to treat an underlying illness, generating, in this way, opportunities for better quality of life in the future to come.
The number of Intensive Care Units has been increasing steadily by various technological, medical and social reasons. Equality and the universality of citizenship rights, scientific development and improvement in the services, exert constant pressures with regards to the treatment of patients in intensive care, originating ethical and medical controversies.
Beyond the discussions held by institutional actors, which kind of participation do patients, their families, and society in general, have in debates regarding notions of death and quality of life? How is that distinct cultural assessments materialize in the care of patients with a life threatening condition? How can we encourage the public participation of the common European citizen in decisions regarding complex medical and scientific questions?
Thinking in different views of risk and uncertainty among medical staff, patients and families, we intend to know how they are negotiated and applied in a hospital work unit.
In Portugal, the creation, organization and development of Intensive Care Units does not depend on specific norms or the strategic planning of health. Rather, intensive care is established in view of local needs and perceptions, financial constraints, and the ?will? of particular health institutions, which has resulted in a detachment of the general public from such debates and issues.