W5 Reflection: Life/Death

We know that different cultures have unique ways of looking at healthcare and medicine. It is not immediately obvious to us in the west that our prevailing health system is biomedicine which effects our culture. By referring to the culture of biomedicine we are talking about the roles doctors play in our society as well as the way we relate to healthcare and the overall feeling that health care should be based on science and fact. As mentioned in the lecture the objectivity and universal success of biomedicine is also valued to us. The culture of biomedicine is important because it effects the ways and frequency with which we utilize healthcare as well as the roles we fill as a doctor or as a patient. In the United States healthcare is a system that is generally trusted as well as believed to be the superior version of healthcare.

The dichotomy I am interested in is life vs. death. To most people these seem like distinct states, either your heart is beating or it is not, however there are some special cases. In lecture there were circumstances discussed where the distinction between life and death was not clear such as in someone who is brain dead or when a fetuses is at early stages of pregnancy. I think that generally this dichotomy is viewed as logical and widely accepted except in some special cases where the distinction of life and death cannot be agreed upon. I think that the decision about how to handle a brain dead comatose family member is seen as something private and left up to the family but when it comes to the prolife vs prochoice debate it gets much more complicated. Although the debate of prolife vs prochoice is complicated I still feel that the dichotomy holds true, that an unborn child is alive as long as it has a heartbeat and I feel that scientifically this would be agreed upon and the dichotomy holds true.

One thought on “W5 Reflection: Life/Death

  1. Great post Jaclyn!
    The dichotomy of life and death is definitely one that can get very complicated and controversial at times. For clinicians, it is very important to understand the dichotomy between life and death when providing sensitive information to friends and family members of patients who are in a coma or who rely on machinery such as a medical ventilator to stay alive. As you said, I believe in these cases it should be up to the family to decide whether that person’s quality of life is reasonable enough to cover the high expenses required to keep him or her alive. However, clinicians must understand and be able to properly inform others about their options while also realizing that the difference between a person who is alive and a person who is dead can be very subjective.

    Many implications would result in seeing life and death objectively based on one fact or measure, such as a beating heart or a functioning brain. If all clinicians only based life and death upon one of those measures, so many miraculous events where people come back from being in a coma or from having no heartbeat would not occur because the necessary actions to help those people come back would not have been done.

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