W5 Reflection: Life/Death

When I hear “culture of biomedicine” I think literally of how the practice of medicine by medical professionals influences the culture for which it is practiced. The lecture this week stated, “Biomedicine is not an objective science that is autonomous from culture. It is one of the most cultural influences in western society”. This means that medicine can’t stand alone, it needs culture to be able to make sense. When understanding the culture of biomedicine one needs to look at the, “institutional history, language of biomedical facts and rituals associated with biomedicine”.  For example, illnesses back in the day could have been taken more seriously and ended with more deaths due to the lack of antibiotics available where now the same illness can be seen as almost nothing because there is a medication to fix it. Another example could be the strict ritual associated with an operating room. Years ago, infection or even death on the operating table were more common because the resources keeping things sterile and uncontaminated weren’t available like they are now. After reading the article by Pearl Katz, one can understand how important it is that certain people touch certain things and that certain people enter the OR in general. I’m sure there also wasn’t as many people trained and available to assist in the operations as there are now. The growth of new technologies, education or even the advancements in hospitals in general has greatly altered how medicine is practiced compared to how it was before.

I am choosing to touch on the dichotomy of Life vs. Death because I have my own varying beliefs that could be similar to other people’s beliefs or independent to myself. I see life as starting at the moment of conception.  I stand by this belief because this is the first moment that life has a chance to start, even though there are processes of development that need to occur before a heart is made or lungs are formed. I believe that because a woman is able to create life and needs to change her regular habits to be able to sustain an environment in her uterus for life that life has officially began. On the other hand, I believe death occurs the moment one’s organs stop working. This makes sense to me because if none of the organs in the human body are working, they are dead and once all the organs are “dead” the human body as a whole isn’t living. These views of the life or death dichotomy for me were influenced by textbooks I have read and things I have seen on T.V.

I think death is accepted in the way I have described as natural to western society because of the idea of “flat lining”. Whenever you are at the hospital or watching a hospital show, the time of death is announced when the monitor releases a slow pitched noise that is constant meaning the heart has stopped beating. As a result of the heart stopping, all the organs eventually follow suit because they are no longer receiving the blood flow they need to operate properly. On the other hand, I think my view of life may not be as natural for western society based on debates regarding abortion. Some people think the minute of conception is when life begins where others believe it starts when there is a heart beat which is why there is so much debate on when abortion should be allowed if at all. I definitely don’t want to get into that but in my opinion, the talk about when life has started is specific to each person’s personal opinion.

One thought on “W5 Reflection: Life/Death

  1. You touched on a lot of really good points in your post regarding life and death and I agree with many of them. As you mentioned briefly in your post, the perspective of what is considered life and death can be very different in various parts of the world where different health practices are utilized.

    It’s important for clinicians and all health professionals, in my opinion, to understand this in order to properly treat patients. That being said, it is also important for the patient to understand and communicate their meaning of this dichotomy. What patients and health care professionals view as life and death may be very different. I think the beliefs of clinicians on this topic and are also heavily influenced by the guidelines and rules set stating patients must be treated at all costs in order to restore health. I’m comparing this to certain states that have enacted the right to die laws where individuals are ultimately given the final choice whether to receive treatment or choose assisted suicide.

    For instance, a recent story of the woman who chose assisted suicide because of her terminal brain cancer may have a different perspective of what is life and what is death. Others who also have terminal cancer or quadriplegics may find that the quality of life is what decides life or death. Ultimately, communication between patient and physician and is important always, but in cases like this, mutual understanding can help deliver treatment and care in the best way for both parties.

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