Society has grown to believe that diabetes only affects children and adults who are overweight, don’t have a healthy lifestyle or are economically unstable/poor. However, that is not the case most of the time. Culture and biomedicine definitely play a huge role in the illness experience. Our cultures incorporate different beliefs, while biomedicine takes on a range of unique approaches. If we were to solely base recovery of illnesses on our culture, then the majority of us wouldn’t recover at all now even though we used to do it that way for centuries. Diabetes is a complicated condition that cannot be summed up by just saying that you have to watch how many sweets/sugar you consume. As explained by the American Diabetes Association, being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes means that your pancreas cannot produce insulin, which is a hormone, needed to “convert sugar, starches and other food into energy.” Because of the societal stigmas we have placed on all people diagnosed with diabetes, many of us don’t understand the mechanism behind it or how it can affect anyone regardless of their lifestyles. Take a look, for instance, at 11-year-old Amanda from the clip “ A Day Living with Diabetes.” An otherwise healthy girl was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 7 and suddenly, her whole life changed. She has to count how many grams of carbohydrates she consumes per meal or snack.
The influences that culture and biomedicine have on the management and treatment of type 1 diabetes are incredibly significant. Because they are not always one in the same, the way one would treat this form of diabetes culturally rather than biomedical could be the difference between life and death. For example, lets take “Placebo: Cracking the Code” and the idea that placebos, which have long been in our traditional values as a ‘hidden art’ before they were actually named placebos. Say they used a placebo to treat Amanda; the question of whether or not she would survive under placebo treatment is hard to think of. To what extent can one trick its own body? It word for the knee surgeons, but pain and diabetes-where your body cannot produce energy without insulin- are two different experiences. This is where biomedicine is needed. If there were no pump that could administer Amanda’s daily insulin, then her likelihood of survival since age 7 would have been lower.
However, it remains true that before diabetes treatment existed many survived. Here we touch upon the connection between belief and healing and how medicine fits into it all. But belief in what? God, saints, spirits, healing powers, the individual belief in ones self or like Prof. Nick Humphrey says, belief in the idea that humans have, within them, the capacity to recover from almost every form of ailment.
In my personal opinion and experience, I cannot say that I believe in saints, gods, or spirits being at the source of so-called medical ‘miracles’ and illness recovery, but I do believe that my immune system has the power to fight certain infections, diseases, and bacteria’s without the help of medication or doctors. Nevertheless, if I had lets say cancer, there is no way that a miracle or me just waiting around will cure it. You need medical treatment of some kind, because in the long run, faith alone won’t ever give you a chance at life again just like praying doesn’t influence the pancreas’s ability to produce insulin. Even with everything, I do believe that positive attitudes can help the progression treatment for any given illness. I think the placebo effect is definitely useful in society, but not entirely.
link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVUOIr8Etow
-“Type 1 Diabetes.” American Diabetes Association.
http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/type-1/?loc=db-slabnav (accessed July 25, 2014).