W5 Reflection: Life/Death

When we say the “culture of biomedicine” we mean that biomedicine can be looked at through culture and biomedicine is a part of our culture. Biology alone doesn’t explain illness you have to look at culture and lifestyle. Culture of biomedicine gives us a better explanation of people’s health and illnesses in order to understand and treat people more efficiently. I believe that this is an important concept because we need to take peoples cultures and lifestyles into consideration, not everything can be determined by biology alone. Taking culture into consideration when practicing medicine is also very important so everyone feels comfortable and everyone’s individual needs are met.


I chose to write about the distinction between life/death. Working in a hospital I have to see death frequently as part of the job. But sometimes it is not as clean cut as life or death. Sometimes there is a gray area when deciding if someone is living or not. This is a hard time for the family because they do not know what to make of the situation. An example of this would be a patient who is brain dead. Many people would say that this person is in fact dead but others would not. Family members might say that they are alive because they are breathing but others would say that being brain dead is the same as death. There is also a gray line between life and death when it comes to people that are being kept alive by machines. Working in the ICU I see patients all the time that are either brain dead or patients who are only being kept alive by machines and vents. The distinction can be looked at differently in different cultures, lifestyles and can be looked at differently based on biology, the legal system or politics. I believe the distinction between life and death gets confusing because people want to believe that no matter how a person is leaving they are still alive and it is hard to let go. When a person becomes brain dead for example it is hard for the family to come to terms with them being dead because they are still breathing. I personally think that the meaning of someone being alive is when he or she has brain function. I do believe though that if your brain is not working and there is no chance of you ever breathing on your own that you are in fact dead. But I can see where the distinction would be hard for a family member or a loved one who is in this position.


I think that this dichotomy is accepted to be logical in western medicine because it is based on your beliefs and your personal feeling on the issue. Some people think biologically and know that when a person’s brain is no longer working then they are dead. But others think that if a person is breathing, even if by a machine, that they are still living. This is a hard topic and can be very confusing so it is accepted into medicine.

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