KRISTIN K. BARKER Oregon State University
Journal of Health and Social Behavior 2008, Vol 49 (March): 20–36
This article illustrates the role electronic support groups play in consumer- driven medicalization. The analysis is based on an observational study of a year in the life of an electronic support group for sufferers of the contested illness fi- bromyalgia syndrome. The analysis builds on and extends scholarship concern- ing the growing influence of lay expertise in the context of medical uncertainty by showing how the dominant beliefs and routine practices of this electronic community simultaneously (and paradoxically) challenge the expertise of physi- cians and encourage the expansion of medicine’s jurisdiction. Drawing on their shared embodied expertise, participants confirm the medical character of their problem and its remedy, and they empower each other to search for physicians who will recognize and treat their condition accordingly. Physician compliance is introduced as a useful concept for understanding the relationship between lay expertise, patient-consumer demand, and contemporary (and future) instances of medicalization.