Life/death

When we talk about the culture of biomedicine, we are talking about the fact that while most people claim biomedicine is separate from culture and is universal to all people, it is actually heavily influenced by culture. From our lectures we learned that it is constantly influenced by culture, and changes over time with our culture (western culture). It also has a noticeable effect on western culture, as it help us determine what and how is an illness and how most medical situations should be handled. The examples of germ theory and antibiotics were mentioned to show of how it played an enormous part in changing our culture since both germ theory and antibiotics revolutionized the our knowledge of medicine and what was possible with modern science.

I like the dichotomy of life and death, because it is one that we usually consider to be concrete, when in reality the two can sometimes be hard to separate. In western society, we either view people as alive, or dead, but not somewhere in between. There are certain cases, such as when a person is declared brain dead, where even though we see the body as alive, we see the mind as dead, and thus some people see the person is dead while others consider this person to be alive. I am of the belief that if the person is no longer to control their actions, and they are not able to make thoughts or provide responses due to no brain activity, then they are dead. I also would put this standard to newborns, where if they can be shown to have brain activity, then they are alive. I think I have adopted this view because of my belief system, how I was taught to view life and death and my trust of modern biomedicine. As for this dichotomy being accepted in western society, I believe that this is fairly evident. The society see’s a person as alive and able to have some type if impact in the world or the people around them, or dead when they stop breathing and cease to live. They do not really think that there could be anything else rather than alive or dead. You are either alive or you’re not.

1 thought on “Life/death

  1. I wanted to comment on your post because I like how you discussed the concept of being alive or dead in the context of whether someone has brain activity. I think the concept of “brain dead” is a particularly important idea that clinicians in the biomedical field need to be familiar with. The dichotomy between life and death is one of the major dichotomies in biomedicine, and instead of the distinction being made simpler as we gain knowledge and develop new technologies, it only becomes more ambiguous. Before the advent of major medical technologies, death was much easier to distinguish, it is when one quit breathing or their heart stopped. Now, we have ventilators and defibrillators that can keep a person breathing or restart their heart beating, even if there is no brain activity, a person’s body can remain alive. If the line between life and death is to seen as fact, this can lead to all kinds of bioethical issues surrounding end of life care in biomedicine. If we conceptualize life as worth saving at any costs, then when do we consider someone dead or alive? One benefit of conceptualizing life in this way, would be that we would perform life-saving heroics on someone, so matter the financial costs. This would be a positive, because not everyone can afford these medical procedures. But one drawback to this approach would be that we would continue to extend someone’s life past the point of their comfort and perhaps own wishes. A negative could be that we would continue life-sustaining treatment against the will of that patient them-self’s and then the medical clinician would have authority over one’s own personal autonomy and right to die with dignity when they choose to do so. This dichotomy therefore, has to be looked at with a great deal of respect and thought by the biomedical community.

Leave a Reply