life/death

Biomedicine is a very common and accepted form of medicine in western society. The idea of the “culture of biomedicine” is based on the principle of understanding and learning about the structure and function of the body and how it to treat patients more effectively.  I believe for those hoping to enter into the medical field, a very important dichotomy to understand is that between life and death. As stated in lecture, the line between life and death is very difficult to determine. Everyone has their own views on when someone is dead-whether it be when they are “brain dead” or when their heart stops beating, and their are many different viewpoints regarding when someone is alive, referring to the ongoing debates of abortion in which those who are pro-life maintain that life begins immediately after conception. I wouldn’t necessarily pick a side, however, in my mind, and after learning so much about the body in my physiology and anatomy classes, I have always considered the a human to be living when their heart starts beating, which if I can remember correctly, is around 22 days after conception. Not to say that the embryo is not “alive,” it just hasn’t matured enough to where it actually has a functioning heart that can supply blood and nutrients to the body. I think I, like probably most of us, get a lot of our view points on issues like this from our parents. We are raised a certain way, and the beliefs and practices of our parents can highly influence ours as well. I do accept, however, that other people believe differently than I do, and so I think that that particular dichotomy will never just be cut and dry and everyone will accept it; I believe their will always be an issue in determining the exact moments of life and death, and so that is why, as discussed in lecture, those questions are answered by family members or physicians in cases of patients who are terminally ill, for example. I think that this dichotomy is accepted because in our culture, we have freedom of speech and we can believe what we want and so we are more accepting of the fact that their is not a straight answer on every issue. We can understand and are more accepting of others opinions and views, and so we mainly just accept that their is always more than one correct answer, and one answer is not better than the other, just as one’s opinion is not more correct than another.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Matt Meranda says:

    The medical dichotomy that promotes more ethical issues than perhaps any other is that of life versus death. When to determine a patient as dead, and cease their treatment becomes significantly more difficult when the use of so-called “life giving” technologies such as respirators, feeding tubes and the like are involved. Particularly important in understanding the fallacy of this dichotomy is in acknowledging the same in the distinction between mind and body; a beating heart may mean life, but perhaps not in the absence of blips on a brain scan. The opposite is just as perplexing, when an individual is not explicitly brain-dead, but all other bodily functions require regulation through intervening machines. What I’ve just described is a patient in a prolonged vegetative state (PVS), and one in a coma. The treatment of these types of people is made difficult for neither end of said treatment—either comfort (that for a PVS patient means little), or cure (which is often well out of reach for either aforementioned patient)—is obviously worthwhile to pursue. It is easy to imagine the legal consequences for a physician that prematurely ends a patient’s life-giving treatment if that individual is not decidedly dead (this may be construed as an instance of passive euthanasia). There may also be a variety of moral implications as well, while admittedly harder to explicitly assess, that may profoundly affect the physician psyche or longevity in the field, as are usually the consequences of significant moral guilt.

  2. Rolando Barajas says:

    This dichotomy is very important for physicians to understand for many reasons, when the thought of life comes into question many see the physiological role of life (such as the heartbeat of an embryo at 22 days). I personally believe (and as I will agree with you that everyone has their own opinion on the subject) that “life” is fulfilled when there is a potential of possible life. In other words I believe there is life when the first embryonic stem cells begin to replicate because with that process it begins the development of a new organism. Many physicians understand this, thus why constant monitoring of a mother during development is important to screen for congenital defects. Although the fetus has not drawn first breathe it can still be susceptible to disease and sickness (which is a trait of living organisms). With death I feel it’s very complicated to label because as discussed in lecture when someone is in a vegetative state, they are “alive” but are not “living”. They cannot enjoy the pleasures of the living such walking, communicating with family they are aided by biomedical machines that if it were not for said machines the person would have died. So doctors must take into account that some varying view points of multiple people and deal with the morality of the decisions of a individual/group of people and learn to accommodate with each new situation.

  3. Connor DeMars says:

    I believe that the dichotomy of life/death is very important for clinicians to understand. Like you said, there are many different views on when a person is alive and dead. Determining when you are alive is very important because this is an issue regarding abortion. The people who are pro-life believe that you are alive after conception, where as, many other people don’t believe that to be true. When you die is also very important for clinicians to understand because you need to know when a person dies because you don’t want to pull the plug to early when they might have still been alive. This dichotomy is the most important and widely argued concept out off all the others. It can have many moral implications as well. As far as life goes, there are moral implications on the people who are not pro-life because the pro-life people believe that you are actually murdering the child. There are also moral implications for the doctor as well. Say the doctor pulled the plug too early; he is not only morally wrong, but legally as well. As far as all these implications go, everybody has a different viewpoint as influenced by their family. Many people are pro-life and many aren’t. Nevertheless, this dichotomy is by far the most important and will continue to have controversy.

  4. saarine3 says:

    I agree with you almost 100% in that this subject is one that has opposing factions, and that the actual time of life and death is not such a clean line. I think that in the US we are brought up in many ways that way our parents wanted us to be. For example a child who is taken to church every week has so say in the matter. So naturally in most cases they follow in their parents footsteps and adopt the views of their parents. All this leads to is a closed mindedness and a unwillingness to listen to the other sides argument. This dichotomy is one that needs to be taken seriously because its dealing with human lives. There are so many moral implications to the choices involved with life and death that there really is no way to make on definition for each. And if there were then there would be huge consequences. Many people would think that it was the wrong choice or perimeters for them. I think this would create even more controversy over the subject that is already controversial. You really nailed this one on the head in that there really isn’t any easy way for bringing up the idea.

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