Week 5 Reflection: Life/Death

The culture of biomedicine is a very interesting thing. It discusses how culture influences our health care system, something that I had not realized previous to this course. This is an important connection to realize since the cultural influence can have both positive and negative effects. As we talked about in lecture, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment was a medical experiment that the government used as propaganda, which influenced racism. This is an example of a negative cultural influence on biomedicine, which is a great learning tool to prevent another event such as this from occurring in the future.

Lecture 5.1 also discussed biomedicine as being a collection of dichotomies, listing several of the obvious ones (life/death, male/female, etc). Dichotomies are an easy way to categorize something, so it is natural to use them. If you ask anyone, they would be able to tell you the difference between life and death or male and female and most likely would be able to identify the characteristics of each in an individual. While there is much complexity involved in many dichotomies, they still serve to simplify the category as a whole for both expert and laymen.

I believe that this dichotomy is accepted in western society because everyone knows someone that is alive and someone that has died as well as the implications of each. Being alive means that you can call up this person and talk with them if you want, being dead means that you cannot. In western culture, the funeral is a universal ceremony that symbolizes the death of an individual. On the other hand, the emphasis on birthday ceremonies symbolizes the celebration and acknowledgement of life. Birthday celebrations are essentially a reward for being alive for another year. Both of these rituals serve as evidence of the acceptance of the life/death dichotomy as logical, natural, and true in western society.

Leave a Reply