Life/Death

After reviewing the material for this week I took the “culture of biomedicine” to be the way Western countries understand and approach medicine, treatment, and general health and well-being. It is our practice of combining medicine and technology to not only cure people, but to “fix” them as well. For instance, if someone lost a limb there is now advanced technology that can be used to almost replace the limb that was lost. Improvements to previous models have created robot-like arms and legs that move and respond to certain stimuli to emulate a real limb as closely as possible. This is an important concept because it signifies how our society is advancing and what we view as important. As discussed in lecture this week, biomedicine today is not focused of preventative measures but on enhancement; or rather what is the best way to “fix” a person whether it is through medicine or advanced surgeries and lengthy treatment. Biomedicine has become a business and rather than focusing on the best and least invasive way to treat a patient, heavy medication and expensive surgery is sometimes pushed in order to make a profit. Nevertheless, it is because of advanced technology and extensive research that we are able to treat a lot of diseases and disorders that could have led to death a few years ago.

The dichotomy I chose to examine more closely is life and death. These concepts are very natural but I think that as humans we have the tendency to forget that we are not meant to live forever. Doctors, medicine, and technology seek to extend human life for as long as possible and movies are made about people seeking “eternal life.” It seems as if we are almost afraid of death and that we take advantage of the lives we currently live. While it may seem as if the line between life and death is a clear one, there have been many debates on various issues where life and death is not always obvious. For example, on the debate on abortion, people disagree on whether life begins at conception or after birth. Another controversial example would be with euthanization. If a person will live out their life in a vegetative state on life support, is that considered a life worth living? Who is qualified to make that decision if the patient is incapable? These are questions that ethics committees, advocates, and politicians debate on; who should have the authority to determine whether someone lives or dies? In these examples and others the question arises: what is being alive? From a biological standpoint, I would say that someone is alive if they have a beating heart, functional lungs, and brain activity sufficient enough to carry out important physiological processes. However, is it still life if the individual cannot experience feelings like love or happiness; if they cannot respond to stimuli and have dreams or goals? These are questions I am not sure we have the answer to right now.

To me, life and death are natural phenomena that link all organisms together. By living a healthy lifestyle, we can attempt to postpone death but we cannot escape it. I think my views on this particular dichotomy come from religion and personal experience. This is probably why this dichotomy is accepted in Western society; because it is universal and cannot be escaped.

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  1. Megan Bergeron says:

    Life and death seem to be complete opposites. I believe that as healthcare changes, and advancements in technology occur that life and death become more closely related. Some humans view dying as a very natural process that is bound to happen to everyone. They do not panic when death is upon them, they accept it. Other people view death as a failure. A failure by medical professionals to keep their loved ones alive. These humans want their loved ones to live forever. Clinicians job is to use all of their resources to keep people alive for as long as possible. If clinicians took this dichotomy as a fact then people that should be considered alive may be called dead and vice versa. Since doctors have to ability to keep people alive for longer than they should be, the line between life and death has been blurred. In some cases, it almost seems inhumane took keep people alive for as long as humanly possible (especially if they are not able to make their own decisions involving their treatment). I think that clinicians, patients and family members need to understand that nobody can live forever, and death should come as a peaceful, natural process.

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