Life/Death

Biomedicine is an important way of approaching illness, especially in the west where biomedicine is the main form of medical practice. There are three important aspects of biomedicine that anthropologists particularly focus on. These include, the institutional history of biomedicine which is how certain biological facts change over time. The next is the language of biomedicine which is how certain ideologies and social values are changed and manipulated over time. The last is the ritual of biomedicine where anthropologists investigate the daily lives of patients and medical professionals in order to reveal the rituals and customs of biomedicine. These are the underlying concepts that are considered when one brings up the culture of biomedicine. This is an important concept because through biomedicine and the utilization of the three facets described above, an illness can be diagnosed through looking at an individuals personal values and cultures, in addition to the socially accepted values that surround both the patient and the doctor and the patients biologic make up, also important in order to decide on a treatment of how to approach curing or curtailing the illness.

In my opinion I think that dichotomy is a very useful way to ponder or evaluate two seemingly different concepts in order to really discern whether these two seemingly different or straight forward concepts instead have more underlying complications when it comes to their categorization.  I believe that dichotomy simply sprouted from the nature of opposing view points. For example, what one culture might categorize as healthy, another culture might categorize as unhealthy. Therefore, dichotomy was created through the different view points of a population stemming from a populations differences in how they live based on qualities such as culture, religion, and  social status.

The dichotomy that I choose to consider is that of life and death. This dichotomy is very controversial in western culture. This is because life can be defined in a multitude of ways. For example someone in the hospital who has been pronounced brain dead and is only living through a respirator may still be considered by some to be alive. Others might say that because  the patient is brain dead, they may be breathing but are not living. This idea gets even more complicated when put into the perspective of pro-choice, or pro-life. Is one considered to be alive when conception occurs, or is it birth that defines life. I think this dichotomy is one of the biggest controversies experienced in western society, because how one defines life or death can change depending on a particular situation, political association, or religion.

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  1. Justin Blazejewski says:

    I agree that life and death can be a very controversial dichotomy in western society and one that clinicians should want to have good grasp for defining or drawing lines between. Like you mention, the perspective of pro-life and pro-choice falls into possibly the most difficult of those to deal with in terms of the life and death dichotomy. I’m sure clinicians views on abortion vary and with this topic it is probably best to keep view points to oneself or among the family. In western society, medical practitioners must be careful not to infringe on the line of a families personal life and the decisions, values, and morals, which make such people who they are.

    On the other hand, dealing with life and death consideration with someone whom is breathing of a respirator while brain dead may be easier to define but still involves morals to abide by. For example the family may want to take their loved one off of the respirator with concern that they are suffering without the ability to communicate their feeling while someone else may consider this taking their life before they were ready to go.

    I do feel it is important for the clinician to have the ability to describe the medical aspects of being brain dead or conceiving a child but regardless of the clinicians understanding, this also comes down to how the family defines the dichotomy as to what the final decision will be.

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