W5 Reflection: Healthy/Sick

The “culture of biomedicine” is the way that biomedicine has impacted the way western society responds to and interacts with illness and treatment. The culture of biomedicine is studied through its cultural influence, the history of biomedicine, as well as the authority of biomedicine. It is important because it is a huge part of US culture and the way we look at medicine as a whole.

I have never been one to look at situations as black or white. I view strict dichotomies as an unrealistic way to expect a real-life situation to be. There are always varying factors, things we don’t take into account, and gray areas. I like to try and find reasoning as to why something would be classified in a certain way, and with that investigation arises new information that sometimes can change the way you view a certain situation.

This leads me to the dichotomy of healthy versus sick. Calling someone “healthy” or calling someone “sick” are ambiguous terms. To me, deciding to draw a definitive line between sick and healthy would be rather difficult, considering people have many different opinions on what those two options would entail.

I can see why this dichotomy would be accepted and logical in western society. They are easy blanket terms for the way a person is feeling. However, they do not explain the magnitude of health or illness, which is where I question the dichotomy model. You may describe someone with a cold as “sick”, but also may describe someone with terminal cancer the same way. Of course, the two are on very different playing fields when it comes to sickness. The person with a common cold will likely return to normal health within days due to their in tact biological processes. This is why I like to see the gray area between two things, rather than settle for just this vs. that in a dichotomy model. I do not know exactly where this view came from, perhaps my experience in a hospital where I have seen varying levels of illness, and felt wrong classifying vastly different cases under the same term.

3 thoughts on “W5 Reflection: Healthy/Sick

  1. Great post Reily! I think that the distinction between “healthy” and “sick” is definitely an important one to establish. In medicine the entire goal is to return someone who is “sick” to being “healthy”, so logically you have to define each term to understand what the problem is and what the goal. This of course would be much simpler if they were black and white, but as you pointed out things are never as easy as this, even if we would like to see them as such. Sick can be two different things, one an ongoing sickness like HIV or MS, or something that would pass like a cold or the flu. If you ask someone who has HIV if they are sick they probably won’t say yes, but are they? This same principle can be used by replacing “sick” with “healthy”. So does this distinction really matter, or is it really just semantics? I think the answer would probably be a little of both. Full health would be the body functioning at full capacity without any hinderances, in medicine they try to limit anything that hinders the body biologically. Think about this if you ask an obese person are they sick, they might say no, but are they really healthy? Maybe they are, but they are certainly not in full health. This may not matter too much because it does not change the goal of the physician to get their patients to the healthiest state possible, regardless of what term we use to describe their state.

  2. Hi Reily,

    I, too, have a hard time viewing the world in black and white dichotomies, and I have a hard time understanding how other people do it as well. As you said, whether it be sick vs. healthy, doctor vs. patient, male vs. female, many of these terms are ambiguous and subjective. Who has the right to tell a person, who is feeling ill, that they are NOT sick but they are healthy instead, because they were .01% below the threshold of being classified as sick. The same can be said about a person who is living a happy, and otherwise healthy, life and being told that they are actually “sick” because they don’t fit within specific parameters. Your point about someone with a cold and someone with terminal cancer both being classified as “sick” did a great job at showing just how ridiculous some of these dichotomies can be. Obviously a person with a cold and a person with terminal cancer are not going to receive the same treatments, both medically and socially, and these dichotomies do not allow for analyzing situations on a case by case basis. I feel that using blanket terms is both an easy way out for the classifier and a great disservice to that which is being classified. It is unfortunate that many of these dichotomies often go unquestioned in our society.


  3. Hi Reily,

    I feel that the sick/healthy dichotomy is one of the most important ones to recognize when looking at health care. Like you said in your post you cannot really call someone “healthy” without knowing how that person is feeling and seeing how that person lives every day. Just by a visit, a doctor cannot determine if a person is “healthy” or calling someone a “sick or ill” person. You cannot really tell how sick or how healthy a person feels and many people have different tolerances of pain and illness. This is important for doctors to realize that they cannot always tell just by looking at someone or looking at their labs and numbers to determine if they are sick or healthy, it is also how the person feels day to day. Someone might come into the doctor on a good day for a check up but not feel well most of the other time; you cannot label that person as “healthy” without talking to them about how they feel at other times. I think this is a problem in our health field because people will go into the doctor saying they are sick but will not be taken seriously because they look “healthy” or they have a good temperature and blood pressure, but it is not always that easy to determine. I think this is important for health care professionals and everyone to know. I think a potential implication could be that doctors are turning away patients or parents are not bringing their children into the doctors because they do not look “sick” or they are not determined as ill in another persons eyes.


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