Viewer-Patient Confidentiality: Commodification of Illness in Contemporary U.S. Medical Reality Television

Oriekose Idah


Television has become a central part of the lifestyles of people across the United States. However, just like the evolution of technology, the content filtered through television has taken a new form. Now, more than ever before, the health conditions of real people are broadcasted nationwide. The commitment and confidentiality held sacred between doctor and patient now includes a third party, the American television viewer. Producers, advertisers, and others have found a way to profit from putting the illnesses and health conditions of individuals on display, a phenomenon this paper refers to as commodification of illness. What does this growing trend say about changing people relations and the importance of privacy in society? This paper hopes to explore this question and more. I would like to thank Professor Hank Greely for his support and guidance throughout this process.


commodification, ilness, television

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