Doctor/Patient

By culture of biomedicine we mean that we are looking at biomedicine from an anthropological standpoint.  Biomedicine is the major authoritative system that people use for treatment in western culture.  It uses scientific and biological factors, like genetics and physiology, to treat disease and illness on the belief that it operates on what is truth.  The culture of biomedicine has been studied by looking at its history, its language, and the rituals observed.  An example of this is when a person feels sick they go to the doctor for a diagnosis, and then they receive a prescription for treatment.  Of course there are non-biological factors like politics, individual choice, and environment also have a role in health and disease.

I think dichotomies are necessary to have full understanding of health and illness in biomedicine.  The doctor/patient dichotomy is necessary to show that each has their role.  The patient seeks the doctor for help in treating their illness.  The patient expects the doctor to make a diagnosis when they feel something is not right.  This is because in western society, we see doctors as being so much greater than the standard citizen. This is also the case in many cultures, where the healer has a higher social standing within the society.

In today’s society there is often an overlap in which the patient becomes the doctor, so to speak.  With access to the internet and through television, people feel that they have the ability to “self diagnosed”, which can in turn lead to over medication.  This leads back to the point made where people expect a prescription when receiving a diagnosis from their health care professional.  As mentioned in the lecture video, media outlets and propaganda can have significant impacts on medicine.  People can get on a website, check off their symptoms, and get a list of things that could possibly be wrong with them, like the Medicalization of Menstruation video demostrates with PMDD.

2 thoughts on “Doctor/Patient

  1. I would have never thought about the Doctor/patient dichotomy. I do feel this is important for clinicians to understand because it may help them understand what the true illness or condition is. I find that sometime when patients self medicate or diagnose they are not very sure about what it is they are suffering from, but it is a good starting point. When a person can not put to words how they are feeling and then see a commercial that sums it up it allows for them to better recognize what is occurring and helps them to translate to the doctor what is going on. I have also seen many people such as my aunts who can “diagnose” any illness and probably has the medication or tools to take care of the issue. At this point she is more of a clinician but without the certifications. The line between patient and clinician has been blurred with the advancement in technologies and easy access to information. I do think that without this dichotomy being realized some clinicians can just go along with what the patient feels is wrong and can misdiagnose them. They could potentially mask the real issue or feed the hypochondriac.

    An alternative way to conceptualize this would be observing clinicians when they are sick and how they behave when they feel they are misdiagnosed or know what is wrong without any sort of testing. This could be beneficial for the doctor who is having a hard time figuring out the problem and opens the floor to more ideas and conversation about it. On the other hand, it would make people feel that they are more qualified than the physician himself to treat themselves and would no longer use their input for serious cases.

  2. It is particularly important for doctors to recognize the doctor/patient dichotomy. Without knowing their own role as well as the role of the patient, they would be unable to perform their duties as a medical caregiver. If doctors begin to rely on patients to diagnose their illnesses independently (through the internet, television, or society), steps in the process of diagnoses will be ignored. Symptoms may not be noticed and all illnesses that are possible could be overlooked. Patients would also realize the inability of doctors to effectively treat them, and might avoid going to the doctor despite severe illness. A different way to conceptualize this dichotomy would be to see it as a teacher/student relationship. This way doctors recognize their role as a provider of information. Doctors should realize that they have access to knowledge that their patients do not. By placing patients in a student role, it signifies their ability to learn without surpassing the teacher. Although being knowledgeable about your medical care is important, ignoring the ability of your doctor to treat you can result in poor medical results. This alternative dichotomy does have drawbacks because it gives doctors supreme power despite the fact that they can (and often do) make mistakes. That is why patients must be active in their medical care but not ignore the “teachings” of your doctor

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