[The Politics of Women's Health: Exploring Agency & Autonomy]

Article excerpt

This collaborative study on medical ethics designed and completed by the Feminist Health Care Ethics Research Network in Canada deals with two major themes: the autonomy and agency women experience with respect to health services and the need for a health-care structure that does not ignore the effects of social conditions on health. Its approach is feminist in the understanding that gender influences how individuals experience the world, and in its commitment to document injustice and oppression and to put an end to them.

The authors' research "is grounded in a belief that a society's organization of health services has great potential to either deepen or relieve existing patterns of oppression." They also see medicine as playing a double role in perpetuating some aspects of women's oppression while helping reduce others.

This book addresses two main domains: a worldwide health movement concerned with improving the status of women's health and bioethics concerned with the value questions associated to the delivery of health services. Western health care systems are cited as an example of the disproportionate burden placed on women as unpaid and underpaid caregivers. One of the book's important contributions to the discussion of bioethics is the suggestion that it is not a question of modifying it but that since it is inseparable from politics, its point of departure should be the root causes of oppression. Another significant insight offered by this study is the notion that "labelling itself is a form of social control" since genetic testing, or the genetization of medicine, instead of promoting health, is actually limiting the potential eligibility for employment or insurance coverage of women. …