W5 Reflection Post
Nature and Culture
Biomedicine is a cultural trend, a perspective for conducting healthcare as well as altering biology. It is a hallmark of modern western culture and has become tied up with other cultural hallmarks of our time such as consumerism. The things that biomedicine concerns itself with and the manner it addresses certain people and populations is entrenched in its culture and that of the society it is operating in. Biomedicine bases its authority on claims of universality and objectivity (Week 5 Lecture 1). We can study the culture of biomedicine by examining its institutional history, language and rituals (Week 5 Lecture 1). These things have been shaped by many social factors such as those groups that are in power, the structure of medical education and professional groups (Week 5 Lecture 1).
There are always discussions of nature versus nurture, natural versus unnatural, choice vs destiny. In medicine the dichotomy of nature versus culture is an important one. Biomedicine can scientifically find ways to change physiological behavior but the essential questions of when should it be used, for whom, and for what purpose or why should it be used are all subject to culture and often run counter to what is natural. Indeed what we deem natural essentially runs downstream from our culture. Take for example the use of viagra or cialis for erectile dysfunction or “impotence” in men. The first term suggests abnormal physiology while the second has an air of weakness attached to it. In our culture men are expected to be ever ready for a romp, but the same is not expected of women (Pill Poppers Part 2).
Those who conduct biomedicine or participate in it often assume a clear cut difference in nature and culture and believe that biomedicine addresses biology and the nature of disease while keeping culture at bay. You can not study the body independent of social and cultural contexts. Politics, culture, individual choice and the environment play a large role in pathology and illness. I think that the dichotomy should be downplayed for the sake of patients and the public health. Culture must be addressed to effectively conduct preventative healthcare which will soon be the only viable way to successfully conduct health care
Week 5 Lecture 1 Video
Pill Poppers Part 2