Life/Death

The phrase “culture of biomedicine” tells about the two-way relationship between societal norms, practices and opinions and the medical healthcare system.  It describes how culture and medicine influence one another.  Biomedicine, that is health in terms of biology, is the main medical practice in the west and thus influences western culture the most.  It can be studied through its history, language or facts which largely shape how westerners view and react to various illnesses.  Lecture told us that the relationship is so pervasive that it is hard to tell where culture stops and medicine begins.  This makes it a very important concept because it determines how the public receives medical knowledge, how well they understand it, and whether or not they trust it.  Ultimately these things decide the efficacy of a healthcare system.

The relationship between life and death is one known to every culture (in its own way) and is one of the original dichotomies.  Simply put, I think the dichotomy came from observing death.  One moment we witness life in a person, their personality, their voice, their movements, and the next moment we see them as “passed on” and existing simply in a physical state.  What happens after death is the oldest and ultimate unknown.  Historically we have tried to answer it with “spirits”, “afterlife”, and “reincarnation”, and notably these all bridge the dichotomy of death and life, making one more like the other.  Many cultures view the dichotomy of life and death similar to the one of good and evil.  Life includes everything we have ever experienced and the finality, emptiness, and unknowable death is frightening.  Personally I view life and death to be equal in the same natural process of recycling matter.

This dichotomy is largely accepted as true in western society, as it is in most societies.  However, the practices performed between the living and the dead are not always logical and do not always celebrate the natural aspect of death.  This has to do with hardship in accepting the above dilemmas of the dichotomy.

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