If modern medicine has become predominantly hospital-based and technological in recent centuries, then it follows that patient experiences must have changed dramatically. Today, the majority of us will experience serious illness, and often death, in a hospital. However, this tended not to be the case until fairly recently. It would be tempting to presume, if we consider the radical changes in medicine since the late 1700s, that patient experiences of illness and institutionalisation are now vastly superior to their historical equivalents. However, the situation is not that simple. While diagnosis, treatments and medical technologies are undoubtedly more technically precise, the quality of the doctor - patient interaction declined in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to the point where patients claimed to feel marginalised and deeply alienated during impersonal clinical encounters. In response, patient rights movements emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s and dovetailed with other emancipatory left-wing movements including feminism, gay rights and civil rights. All of these movements strove to tackle social discrimination and the inequitable workings of existing power structures. Those who advocated patient rights challenged a perceived paternalism in medical care and discriminatory medical attitudes towards women, ethnic minorities and gay communities.
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