W5 Reflection: Life/Death

I chose to do the dichotomy in biomedicine of life and death. I chose this one in particular because of how polarizing it can be. Topics like abortion are often make or break for some people in politics, so I thought I would write about something that is clearly very important to people.

The culture of biomedicine is not something people normally think about because we normally rationalize that because of how science based medicine is today that nothing is without a scientific explanation or answer. Only when dichotomies are presented does it become clear that there is a culture of biomedicine that is part of our daily lives in the western world. Even something like surgery, which most people do not know how to perform, we understand the basic ‘ritual’ of incision, excision and repair, and lastly closure.

I stated in the beginning that this particular dichotomy is polarizing and that is why I chose it. There are many different sides to this dichotomy, namely at the beginning and end of life. When someone is on life support are they alive? If someone is in a coma for months on end supported only by the technology and physicians around them, are they alive? These are not easy questions, especially when people have come out of comas after being in them for extended periods of time. My personal opinion is slightly undecided on this topic, I think if I were the one on life support with no chance of recovery I wouldn’t want to waste any more resources keeping me alive. If it were one of my family members I think the situation would be entirely different, but I think that at some point you have to face reality and make the difficult decision. At the beginning of life is an even more vague timeline and controversial topic: abortion. The rift is between pregnant women who (for whatever their reason) do not want to have a child and people who think that getting rid of the unborn child is murder/unethical. These two viewpoints are often oversimplified down into “prolife” and “prochoice”. My personal view would fall under prolife. My personal viewpoint probably came from my religion and upbringing to lead my to believe what I do.

This dichotomy seems like it would be pretty straightforward and widely accepted, but the lines in this dichotomy are blurred. Due to this people argue about where those lines really are. In conclusion I think that this dichotomy is widely accepted but where they begin and end is hotly debated.


Katz, Pearl. “Ritual in the Operating Room.” Ethnology 20, no. 4 (1981): 335. Accessed August 6, 2016. doi:10.2307/3773355.

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