What we mean by the culture of bio-medicine is that bio-medicine, while claiming to be free of cultural bias is actually a culturally influenced institution. In most cases, bio-medicine is associated with western culture, and is sometimes referred to as western medicine. It is important to realize that bio-medicine is culturally influenced because there have been many cases where bio-medicine is used as ‘proof’ to rationalize or justify one group or another’s action. The most prominent example of this is eugenics, which essentially legitimized racist beliefs by providing scientific ‘proof’ of inferiority.
I think that the difference between being healthy versus being sick from a biomedical standpoint is not always clear. Specifically, I believe that the pharmaceutical industry has pushed our medical system to prescribe more medication, whether or not medication is the best answer. The first example that pops into my mind is ADHD. I believe that ADHD and its corresponding medication to be over diagnosed and over-prescribed, respectively. I also do not agree with the way that children are targeted for ADHD medication, or with the way that parents can be led to believe that it will solve all their child’s school performance problems. While I’m sure some people actually need the medication and benefit from it, I think that ADHD for the most part is culture-bound.
I am not entirely sure where my beliefs on the dichotomy on being healthy versus being sick originated. While I believe that pharmaceuticals can be extremely useful, I dislike the way in which we jump to straight to prescriptions to solve all our problems. I believe that prescriptions should be used as a last resort, and that lifestyle changes should be the first attempt at improving health. In line with that train of thought, I believe that many of the variations in an individual’s health we consider to be a disease are caused by that individual’s lifestyle, and can be corrected with changes to their lifestyle. If a condition is caused by a person’s lifestyle and can be easily corrected by changes to their lifestyle, I do not see why that condition should be considered an illness or warrant a prescription medication. The problem with this ideal is that individuals are not always in control of their lifestyle or fully understand the cause-effect relationship between their lifestyle and their illness. Once again, I am not entirely sure where my personal views on this dichotomy originated.