Life/Death

“Culture of biomedicine” refers to the relationship between health (in terms of biology) and perceptions of the body that are influenced by culture. Since biomedicine is main form of medical practice in the west, this is an important concept. It is often perceived that objects of nature such as the body can be thought of, studied, and treated independently from culture. This is not the case, and the two are related. Opinions and social norms as well as other components of western society influence biomedicine.

Biomedicine is made up of a system of dichotomies such as life/death, nature/culture, male/female, and more. I believe that dichotomy comes from culture. Everyone has their own opinion that could be influenced by an endless amount of factors as a result of culture. The dichotomy that I chose to examine is life/death.  I believe that this dichotomy can demonstrate examples of how people’s opinions can be influenced by their social status. In lecture, life or death in relation to being on life support was discussed. I feel as though this can be influenced by a family’s social status. If a family is wealthier, they would probably be more likely to keep their relative on life support than a family who could not afford the medical bills. Another example of the dichotomy that I believe is influenced by culture is death from old age. It is true that as you age the body becomes less efficient. However, at what age is it that death from old age is accepted? Society and culture have an influence.

I believe that this dichotomy is accepted as logical in our society because we all perceive life and death differently. At different times we all want to accept different things, create reason to justify our desires, and move on at different times. It is hard for such concepts to not overlap when they are influenced by so many circumstances.

 

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  1. Hassan Ahsan says:

    Joseph,
    This weeks question about what the culture of biomedicine had me stumped for quite a while. I am not sure that biomedicine necessarily refers to the perception of the body, unless it is referring to the health status of the body. The way I understood it was that, despite biomedical professional’s assertion that it is a neutral non cultural field, people’s backgrounds cannot be ignored. I do agree with you that culture and medicine are very closely related but I would suggest that components of societies other than western life are stronger influences in biomedicine.

    I liked your example about the life support question. The issue of whether a person is alive or dead in such circumstances in another class I took recently. Should the issue be of whether brain function needs to be intact or should body function take precedence? I have never really thought about whether a person’s socio economic status may influence a person’s decision to discontinue life support. I would personally like to think that regardless of financial status, all humans would want to see the best outcome for their loved ones. One of the reasons that the life vs. death dichotomy is important for the medical profession is because the authority of doctors is at its peak when playing ‘God’ in deciding who lives and who dies. Taking this burden as a matter of fact impacts lives. There are always cases of people ‘coming back from the dead’, in some cases during funerals so there should never be haste in decisions regarding the dichotomy of life vs. death.

    In my post, I chose Nature vs. Culture and I believe that your idea about wealth being a factor would come into play in such a dichotomy as well. Culturally, regardless of wealth, there will always be those who will refuse life saving treatments. Some cultures do not allow even transfusions or transplants and therefore it is important that doctors are culturally aware and sensitive to the needs of patients when providing care. This can obviously make treatment planning harder for the doctor but patient care has to involve patient belief as well.

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