When it comes to Western medicine, biomedicine is the most commonly used and accepted form of healthcare.  The “culture of biomedicine” explains the ideals that dominate and form the practice of biomedicine.  As we learned in lecture, biomedicine is deeply rooted in studying the anatomy and physiology of the body in order to diagnose and treat illness. Biomedicine is widely accepted in the US because people believe in the authority of biomedicine.  Everyone has been raised and educated to believe that biomedicine is universal and objective, but biomedicine, like all forms of medicine, is influenced and constructed socially and culturally. When anthropologists study biomedicine they consider three cultural influences that demonstrate how biomedicine is culturally constructed.  These are the institutional history of biomedicine, the language of biomedical facts, and the rituals of biomedicine.

Personally, I think that dichotomy has stemmed from society’s need to categorize and separate various viewpoints.  In society, this has become particularly accepted as a logical way of trying to label and organize controversial issues in biomedicine and healthcare because it makes difficult scenarios seem “simple”.  Recently, I think the use of dichotomies has become more prominent and accepted as true and natural because technology has blurred the lines in previously distinct groups/issues.  Personally, I think that dichotomy has both positives and negatives.  It allows us to be comfortable in decision making, but I think it requires us to make decisions that are on one side of a categorization. With recent technological developments, it might be useful to consider some issues on a spectrum, rather than as dichotomous.

I chose to analyze the doctor/patient dichotomy because I find it interesting how it has become increasingly more dynamic as biomedicalization has become more prominent in Western society.  This dichotomy has become more controversial as the general public/patients have been able to gain access to more medical knowledge.  Historically, the doctor/patient relationship has been very one sided and very distinctly categorized – the doctor is educated and authoritative, and the patient is submissive and accepting.  In recent years, it seems as though this dichotomy has been challenged as patients seek to not only be healthy, but also seek to be in control and to take advantage of new biotechnologies in order to be the best that they can possibly be. I think this dichotomy will continue to become more controversial as patients continue to want to have more access to medical knowledge and more say in their diagnosis and treatment.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Sultan Qiblawi says:

    I agree with your post Kelly, the dichotomy between doctors and patients has always been present in the US, but in recent years there is a bit of a ‘haziness’ about the roles that each of them have. I think it is important for physicians to understand this evolution of the traditional dichotomy that has always existed. Patients have more access to knowledge than they ever have and demand more respect from physicians. The more ‘submissive’ patient is becoming extinct and there is almost a loss of respect from patients towards their doctors. It is important for physicians to notice this and speak to patients as intelligent and informed individuals. If doctors just continue to treat patients like they usually do, the disconnect between patients and doctors will continue and patients may not want to seek professional help anymore. There are many people that like to self-diagnose and this can be dangerous, not because they are not intelligent or able-bodied, but because they lack experience and resources to identify their ailments when they arise. Patients must also start to change this definition as well. Patients being a know-it-all in front of doctors can blind them from their actual disease, if their self diagnosis is different from what the doctor believes. It is important to redefine these roles and change the dichotomy now because it will strengthen the relationship that is currently present between patients and doctors. Doctors and patients are supposed to have a personal relationship and the current dichotomy does not allow for this type of interaction to exist.

  2. Melinda Zielinski says:

    I think it’s important for clinicians to understand the doctor/patient dichotomy because each person plays an important role in healthcare. It should be within the doctor’s best interest to provide their patients with the most quality care they can provide and for the patients to listen and trust in their doctor’s advice. After all people that are doctors are knowledgeable and went through many years of schooling to provide advice to their patients. However, I agree with you when you say that this dichotomy stemmed from society’s need to categorize and separate various viewpoints (each person plays a specific role as I stated above). I also completely agree with you when you say that the lines of this dichotomy are becoming blurred. This is do to the access of online medical sites such as WebMD and the Mayo Clinic, that patients use to look up symptoms and self diagnose. Taking out the main role of the doctor (minus prescribing prescriptions) since the patient does it all themselves. Like you, I too think this dichotomy has evolved because of technology. I think the potential implications if this dichotomy were to be taken for fact is that doctors would become more aggressive about their work and possibly put down patients because they didn’t go through the schooling, therefore they have no right to self diagnose. If this dichotomy was clean cut and dry patients would be patients and doctors would be doctors. Meaning the doctors would be the only people that could provide medical advice to their patients that are suffering or seeking out treatments for enhancements. Obviously, this is not the case in our modern society. I’m very interested on how this will keep unfolding and evolving as time goes on and technology becomes more and more advanced.

  3. Desirae Jemison says:

    Hi Kelly,

    I agree with your post and you also made some valued points. Especially when you mentioned “historically the doctor/patient relationship has been very one sided and very distinctly categorized”. I believe that this due to patients not being aware of a lot of whats going on, but things have changed due to modern technology. I think that it is important for clinicians to understand the doctor/patient dichotomy because they both play a major role in healthcare. Due to the increasing growth and expansion on technology patients now are able to have access to more information. Doctor should be aware that patients have done they research and have knowledge to what is going on with their condition, and because of that doctors should communicate with the patients on better level. I think that with this approach it would make patients feel more comfortable about agreeing or disagreeing with a physician. I also do think that to some extinct that there is a loss of respect from patients towards their doctors, mainly because patients think that they don’t need doctors opinions because they are able to “diagnose” themselves because of the research that is available on the interne

Leave a Reply