Anthropologists believe that the culture of biomedicine is explained by both the biological health and cultural factors. This is important because when diagnosing a person’s illnesses or health issues, looking at more than the natural occurrence by looking at the culture surrounding that disease. The society in which people lie and the culture in which they are submerged in can explain illnesses, remedies, cures and prognoses. How one deals with the illness/disease may be different in other societies and may have various stigmas surrounding it. For instance, in the article The Commodification of Celebrity Health, Paula Deen’s announcement of Type II Diabetes received a lot of negative feedback. In our society, the image and lifestyle we expect of celebrities and athletes are placed at a higher value than what we expect of ourselves. We believe that they can afford to take care of themselves and be the image of optimal health. So possibly, our culture sees Type II Diabetes as a disease that occurs in the poorer demographic of America. I think another interesting aspect of that is actor Tom Hanks has Type II Diabetes and I remember hearing a morning DJ on a radio show saying, “he doesn’t look like he would have that!” I thought that was interesting because we have a preconceived notion of what individuals should look like that have this illness. He does not fulfill that stereotype and therefore people are unsure of what to think and are more sympathetic towards him. Paula is known for using real butter in the majority of her recipes and uses, in my opinion, extremely unhealthy cooking techniques so I think this is more believable and she carries more weight than the average woman on television.

Our society has preconceived notions for a lot of aspects of life and culture. Life and death for instance are always an interesting topic of discussion and often a heated one. In lecture it is asked, when does life start? Is it at conception? Is it at six months? When and how do we decide when human life starts and who can decide that? Our individual beliefs and the beliefs of the societies and cultures we’re apart of usually decide that. Death also is a question we have to ask. Is someone dead when they stop breathing? Is it when there is no more brain activity? Is it when their heart stops? When is it all right to say someone has passed? On television shows we see doctors in gowns calling time of death when they can’t get the heart to start beating again. In some cultures, people may never die, just their bodies. Spirits are considered to be alive so one never really dies.

In our modern day western society, our view of when life starts is convoluted with issues on abortion. Many believe life begins at conception. Pro lifers versus Pro choicers argue this to the end however; it won’t ever be an area we can agree on because of our different cultures. I think that death of the body, in our country is accepted. However, there are cases where families keep loved ones on life support because their heart is still beating even though they are not breathing on their own and they have no brain activity.


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  1. Jenny Hallesy says:

    Being a pre-med student, I believe that this dichotomy is one of the most important to understand within the medical field. The primary goal of all medical professionals that deal with living patients is to make sure that their patients remain alive and healthy while in their care, whether they’re in a hospital or being treated at home. While it is generally pretty easy to determine the differences between life and death, there are some people that have differing views on what “life” is considered. When a patient is being kept alive by machinery, there becomes an issue where many people would not consider this life even though there is still blood flow within the patient’s body. Some doctor’s would consider a patient like this “alive” if it means there is a possibility that they can get their bodies working on their own again. So according to this idea, there are some people that would consider a person “dead” if they can no longer be kept alive without the use of medication and only with the help of machinery. However, with a doctor that would still consider this person alive, it would mean that they are going to continue trying to help their patient whereas some might simply give up. On the flip side, continuing to use machinery to keep patient’s alive even though their chance of survival is slim, can be incredibly expensive for hospitals run on multiple patients.

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