LIFE/DEATH

When we talk about the “culture of biomedicine,” it refers to the way that biomedicine is culturally constructed. Biomedicine changes and is shaped by culture, the individuals culture, or the ideas that are mainly adopted within a society. We see biomedicine as being its own cultural system in the way that we separate those who enter the biomedical fields from the general population of people. We create institutions where they thrive, adopt policies and ‘rituals’ that will help aid people. Because biomedicine incorporates both the biological and scientific approaches in order to treat/study diseases, the culture behind it lies within those biological and scientific approaches. Culture, by many definitions, can be generally referred to (as I would word it) as the integration of the collective human intellectuality wherein a set of attitudes, behaviors, values, goals, beliefs, etc… are shared by a group, society, or organization and therein projected; biology as well as science, are both concepts that were developed by a collective gathering of human intellect throughout many years and from people from different cultural backgrounds. The “culture of biomedicine” is an important concept because it helps come to terms with the idea that biomedicine isn’t just a random information and processes that were chosen by doctors and professionals, but rather the combination of practices from many years ago. Not only this, but the fact that it incorporates various ideals and factors-not just the scientific and biological. Referring to it as a culture makes it a more “human” concept and easier to grasp-if that makes sense.

According to Lecture 2, biomedicine is made up of a “system of dichotomies…that are culturally constructed.” Dichotomies consist of dividing a whole concept (however similar or not they may be) into two parts such as gender (the whole) being split between male/female or medicine (the whole) split between doctor/patient. It’s hard to specifically say where dichotomies came from exactly, but from my perspective, they were constructed as a response to different points of views. Since we, as humans, are so diverse and see the world in so many different ways, there isn’t just one simple standard categorization or definition for certain concepts. For example, take the dichotomy I chose, life/death. I’ll use abortion and the pro-choice or pro-life division and the controversial question of “when does life begin?”

If there were just one universal perspective on this idea, then we’d all either be pro-choice or pro-life. However, that is not so. Since there aren’t just 5 or 6 people in the world with the same general idea, we can’t decide it that easily. Our perceptions come from what we have been taught to culturally accept or the ideas that we as individuals construct based on what we do or do not agree with given our cultural views/teachings.

In western culture, the concept of life/death when it comes to abortion is generally that pro-life trumps a woman’s right to choose whether to get an abortion or not-as we have been taught to culturally accept. Because we are a western society that is still mostly ‘ruled’ by the decisions that are accepted by religion and legislation in order to construct definite decisions, not having the right to an abortion is seen as the logical/natural idea-since it is what our ancestors would have believed and because in almost every cultural society, abortion is deemed as a sinful act punishable by “God” or whatever divine power/deity that culture is centered around among many other factors. Regardless of what my own Hispanic culture deems is right or wrong when it comes to abortion, I am pro-choice because as an individual woman, I believe that I should have the right-within this free society-to choose what I do with my body. Others ideals, cultures, or perceptions should have nothing to do with what I am or am not able to do. Those people are not me, nor are they carrying my burdens. However, to say there is a western culture is even a shaky idea. Because our western society is a mesh of numerous other cultures, I believe that there is no one unilateral “western culture” just as the “culture of biomedicine” is the incorporation of so many other perceptions and studies and not just one set standard cultural view.

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