The phrase “culture of biomedicine,” is referring to the fact that the biomedical knowledge and ideology behind the dominant form of ethnomedicine in the U.S., Biochemistry, is not natural or universal, but rather culturally constructed. Biochemistry as an ethnomedicine focuses mainly on the biology of an individual, and aims to cure this individual by medically treating the biological problem. As demonstrated in this week’s lecture, the acceptance of the germ theory, the mass production of antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals, and the establishment of the genetic sciences are all historical cultural events that transformed the way the U.S. viewed health and healthcare which ultimately aided in establishing the authority of biomedical knowledge. It is important to recognize that biochemistry as an ethnomedicine isn’t universal, but rather culturally constructed because by recognizing this, individuals can be treated more efficiently by considering important factors that may be playing a key role in their disease beyond that individual’s biology. Such nonbiological factors include an individual’s social, political, economical, and/or cultural status.
In biomedicine, there is an assumption that there is a defined boundary between life and death. The idea that an individual is either alive or dead is very over simplified and does not consider the cultural or individual beliefs surrounding the individual in question. Personally, I believe that life begins at birth when a baby is able to live outside of the mother’s womb. For me, death is a little harder to define. I believe that when a person is no longer able to live without extreme measures such as life support, and there isn’t a chance that they will recover this constitutes that this person is no longer alive, but rather dead.
I have never been put in a situation where I had to decide whether or not to let a loved one go, so my views on death have not been formed via this. However, my opinion of death changed from reading a book written by Jodi Picoult called the Lone Wolf. In this book, a family has to decide whether or not to terminate the life support that their father was on. The decision ultimately came down to what was believed to be the fathers view about life/death. The fact that it is so hard to define these two concepts, life and death, just further illustrates that they cannot be defined by biomedical knowledge alone. I feel that Western culture accepts this dichotomy of life or death as natural and true, because it is easiest to look at life and death as extremes rather than consider any gray area between the two. How can someone be both alive and dead at the same time? Is this biologically/physically possible? To consider the gray area that may exist between life and death requires the loss of the objectivity that has been engraved into cultures that are so dependent on biomedical knowledge. This jump from objectivity to subjectivity is a hard one for such cultures to make when considering dichotomies such as life or death.