Author Archives: Sharon Kaufman

Sharon Kaufman is Chair of the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Her work explores topics at the intersection of medical knowledge and society’s expectations for health. Her research has examined: the changing culture and structure of US medicine; health care delivery at the end-of-life; the relationship of biotechnologies to ethics, governance and medical practice; the shifting terrain of evidence in clinical science; practices of risk assessment; and mistrust of science.

Forsythe Prize Author Sharon Kaufman on Ordinary Medicine

I am delighted to be the recipient of the honorable mention, Diane Forsythe Prize for Ordinary Medicine: Extraordinary Treatments, Longer Lives and Where to Draw the Line (Duke University Press 2015). The book is an ethnography of the invisible social, economic, and bureaucratic forces that have made once extraordinary therapies seem ordinary and necessary. Medicine’s ability to prolong wanted life through both low-tech and high-tech interventions is a positive development in many respects. Yet the socio-medical imperative to employ death-defying techniques now exists in an ever-aging society in which private industry churns out greater numbers of interventions than ever before; in which no age or cost limits exist for insurance reimbursement of those procedures; in which many older persons, their families and their health providers must consider whether additional treatment will bring with it pain and suffering; and in which saying ‘no’ to new technologies seems somehow suspect or ethically (more...)