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Overdiagnosis, medicalisation and social justice: commentary on Carter et al (2016) ‘A definition and ethical evaluation of overdiagnosis’
  1. Michael Morrison
  1. Correspondence to Dr Michael Morrison, Nuffield Department of Population Health, The University of Oxford, Centre for Health, Law and Emerging Technologies (HeLEX), Ewert House, Ewert Place, Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7DD, UK; michael.morrison{at}dph.ox.ac.uk

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The concept of ‘overdiagnosis’ is one of a number of related, normative concepts, such as ‘too much medicine’,1 ,2 that have emerged recently and which try and describe harms associated with the excessive or undue application of medicine. It is worth considering to what extent the concept of overdiagnosis (and other recent coinages) represents a refinement, an alternative, or a possible successor to the older concept of medicalisation.3 Medicalisation, it has been argued, has been overused, becoming in the process too broad and too nebulous to provide a useful critique of medical practice or organisation.4 In this context, overdiagnosis may be regarded as an attempt to regain this critical edge by focusing on a specific facet of medical practice—diagnosis—and attempting, as Carter et al5 have done, to delineate a clear set of problems to be addressed.

Critiques, of course, are of their; they are shaped by the perspectives of the communities from which they arise, and the wider social context of the particular problems that they seek to address. While several drivers of overdiagnosis have been identified, it is perhaps most pertinent that the concept has arisen in an …

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