Life/death

I believe the culture of biomedicine to be a focus on medicine and health care from a biological perspective. So far in anthropology we have weighed the culture, politics, and economy of different people and its effect of health and medicine. Learning more about biology and the anatomy of health is very important. The think I like most about anatomy is that is understood universally. Culture does not affect the structure of the body or the physiology of body functions. The way we perceive or believe these functions to happen may differ but the actions and features of the body do not differ.

I struggle with identifying with dichotomies because a lot of the time I do not see things so simply divided and “clear-cut”. In terms of biology though we use dichotomies to classify organisms. There are eukaryotic and prokaryotic organisms. There are vertebrates and invertebrates. Although I understand the simplicity of this I believe that a clear distinction is not always possible. My differing views come from my parents’ views. My mom is very straightforward and something is right or wrong, black or white, or gay and straight, as other students have mentioned. Her views are a direct reflection of her parents are their tradition upbringing her. My Dad is very different and every situation she approaches there are multiple solutions and answers to the question. He sees how the lines can be blurred and can intertwine.

We talked about a very simple dichotomy of life and death in class and I wanted to focus on that.  I found this one very interesting because it can be approached from the idea that someone has a heartbeat or none and is pronounced dead. A person can also be mentally or spiritually alive. Although they may be approaching physical death they are very much alive in spirit and mental capacity. The opposite to that is if someone is alive and healthy, but would be considered dead in spirit or mentally in a coma. My grandma for example is approaching eighty-three and to me she is more “alive” than some of my friends. She is so upbeat and full of joy and seems nowhere near death although she is aging.

I think out society is assuming aging means death and lack of life. The elderly seem to be pushed to the side and not recognized for the life they’ve lived and continue to live.

4 thoughts on “Life/death

  1. I think it’s important for clinicians to understand the dichotomy of life and death because it may affect their attitude toward healing a patient, which in turn will bring either hope or despair to the patient. It may also affect the way the healer communicates with the patient and patient’s family. This may affect clinical results and affects the patient’s experience.
    You point out in your post that people see aging as death, an alternative way to see this dichotomy would be to look at the human spirit or charisma as the absence of death. This may provide benefits because healers may look past old age and see the life (spirit or charisma) of a patient (even elderly) and treat the patient as more alive and as having more fight in them. As we saw in one of the videos for class, a doctor told a patient he had cancer and he later died but after further investigation he had hardly any cancer so it was not the cause of death. This may suggest that if a doctor had more positive attitude towards older patients they may have better clinical results. When looking past age though there may be drawbacks such as overestimating the strength of an aging patient.

  2. I think you made some very good points when approaching the dichotomy of life and death. One that I certainly agree with is the point you made of people being spiritually alive even though they may not be in good physical health and vice versa. I think it is very important for medical professionals to understand this dichotomy and all the in between factors in order to make the best decisions for our health. One way of thinking about this is if a person flat-lines on an operating table. If the surgeons were to just see that as the sign that they were dead there would be a lot less successful life saving surgeries. This is what makes the fact that clinicians tend to look outside the box very important. Another example can be made that brings issues in bioethics in to the picture. If a person is terminally ill, or ill to the point where they would no longer lead a comfortable life, and already feel like they are at the end of their life, should they have the right to request a doctors help to enact the inevitable? What implications would come about from such a situation? There are many factors to consider when looking at the dichotomy of life and death.

  3. I think the dichotomy of life and death is interesting because, I think it was said in the lecture, it just seems so straight forward, but then you think about it and there is this big grey area. It is important for clinicians to understand because they have to deal with it all the time, and it can mean the difference between saving someone’s life or not. Implications of taking this dichotomy for granted is, again, lives lost when they did not need to be, specifically, if you go by whether or not someone’s heart is still beating. Also considering different people have different views on the criteria determining whether someone is still alive or not exactly a clear cut situation.
    The spiritual way of looking at life or death mentioned in the post is interesting. It just makes the topic even more complicated. Now, you have life and death, but also being spiritually alive or dead. I could see where someone could be physically alive, but spiritually dead, but what would that mean for someone medically? I have no idea. I guess you could try to heal their mind, but if you are calling them spiritually dead does that mean it’s too late? I could see a drawback of conceptualizing life or death this way, in that, like it was mentioned in the placebo effect film, some people in the medical community are more scientifically inclined, and might have a harder time looking at things this way.

  4. Healthcare and medicine are involved with the start and end of the most valuable thing we have in life, our lives themselves. Clinicians bear great responsibility when it comes to decisions surrounding life, they understand that much. Life and death are not easily distinguishably and it is important for everyone to understand this. It is important to recognize the implications presented by varying definitions for the start of life and its ending. The definition of life is different across international borders. In some countries a child is considered still born if it does not survive to its first birthday. In the United States though, an infant need only take a single breath after birth. The definition of death has changed too. It used to be based on the heart beat but now with resuscitation possible we have had to change our definition of death. The spirituality of life and death is alternatively another matter from our biologically understanding of the dichotomy almost entirely. To be spiritually alive but physically dead or the other way around changes the family dynamics around decision making medically and legally. Alternative approaches to the biomedical dichotomy are important because a patient’s right to be treated medically in tune with their beliefs is very, very important.

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