W5 Reflection: Life/Death

Biomedicine is a simple term to define. It is the application of biology and physiology into the practice of medicine. The “culture of biomedicine” is a more difficult concept to grasp because it can differ depending on who you ask. While the science does not change, the experience of biomedicine can be different across many cultures. The culture of biomedicine is related to the way that an institution has developed over time, how the language of medicine is communicated, and the interaction between patients and medical professionals. All of these are variables that fluctuate between cultures and determine how a person will experience biomedicine.

The dichotomy that I chose to analyze is life and death. You would think that life and death would be comparable to black and white, complete opposites and no mistaking the two. However, depending on your background in science, law, or religion there can be some gray areas when determining whether something is alive or dead. I have a strong background in science so I would consider something or someone to be living if it fit the biological standards of a living organism, which the qualifications are too long to list. I use the same guidelines to classify something as dead. The gray area is when it comes to human beings. If someone is brain dead and on life support are they still alive? Legally they are considered to be living, but biologically they cannot maintain homeostasis and would be considered “not living”. For this reason, I also rely on the legal definition of life and death to draw the line. When a baby is born and is performing the functions of a human independent from their mother, that person is considered to be alive. When circulation, respiration, and complete brain function cease entirely a person is dead. Again, this is only the legal definition and is open to debate. In western society the scientific, legal, and religious definitions of life and death all compete with one another for truth and validity.

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