Medical Technologies


Medical technologies—such as artificial heart valves, genetic screening tests, new drug treatments, and visual imaging devices—are continually being invented and incorporated into medical practice and everyday life. Technology has alternately been viewed as leading to miraculous improvements in human life or as unnatural and dehumanizing. In this course, we will explore these views of medical technology, while also asking sociological questions. How are new technologies produced and incorporated into medical practice? How are medical technologies an outcome of interaction among multiple social actors, including physicians, patients, entrepreneurs, pharmaceutical companies, government regulatory agencies, and social movement activists? How have boundaries such as “natural” or “technological” been established and contested? Are new technologies contributing to increasing health-care costs? How are the risks of new technologies regulated, and how is access to them determined?  Previous course work in the social sciences is not required.