WP 1 Biomedicine – Ashlyn Sovereen

Biomedicine is a system based on population-based biological and chemical knowledge of human bodies, but aimed at healing individual patients, not populations.  In other words, biomedicine uses the knowledge we gain through study of the general population to treat individuals.  With all medical systems, there ae both strengths and weaknesses.  In biomedicine, strengths include healing medical problems with one specific cause, emergency medicine, heroic life-saving measures such as helping a person survive a stroke or heart attack or cutting out a cancer tumor in surgery, surgery, and holding individuals responsible for health behavior.  Weaknesses include its failure to heal chronic, long-term conditions with multiple factors (including chronic unexplained back pain and migraines), side effects of pharmaceutical drugs, and its ignorance of environmental, political, and social aspects of health.

This past March, my grandpa was diagnosed with lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system, specifically one’s white blood cells.  As a result, he became very sick.  His doctor decided he would undergo six rounds of chemotherapy as a form of treatment.  Currently he has undergone four and has two more to go.  His cancer cells are shrinking and the chemotherapy appears to be working.  I have always been close with my grandpa, so the diagnosis was devastating.  As a result, I have made more of an effort to spend time with him, along with the rest of my family, as one never knows how long we’ll all be here together on his Earth.  One day this person that you care deeply for may be gone and all one will have is the memories of the past to look back on and to remember them.

With this diagnosis of lymphoma, we can clearly see the benefits of biomedicine.  While the cause may not be completely understood as to how cancer cells develop, science has shown how they grow and research has found ways to treat this uncontrollable mass of cells.  There is one specific cause for this medical problem and biomedicine has a strength of treating medical problems with one cause.  Research has shown a way to target such cancer cells to stop further growth and to shrink previous growth.  If the cancer had been another in another form, such as with brain cancer and the development of a tumor, we would have been able to recognize biomedicine’s strength of life-saving measures with the removal of the tumor through surgery.  This form of cancer; however, is found in the blood and therefore could not use this technique.  Individual responsibility is also seen a strength with biomedicine with this medical event.  While my grandfather’s health may not be directly affected by his lifestyle habits, it has promoted the idea of living a healthier lifestyle, including healthier eating and the consumption of more water to help with healing.

With this medical event, biomedicine’s weaknesses are also present.  With biomedicine, we tend to treat conditions with pharmaceutical drugs and such drugs can have significant side effects.  My grandpa was given a treatment of chemotherapy to help with riding his body of the cancerous cells.  Side effects have included a loss of hair and appetite, as well as extreme exhaustion.  He has also been unable to go out into public as his immune system is weak, making it more difficult for me, along with the rest of my family to see him.  Other medical systems may treat such a diagnosis with a different treatment that does not yield such side effects.  Finally, another weakness present with biomedicine can be seen with its ignorance to environmental and social aspects of health.  With chemotherapy, doctors are using chemicals that may be dangerous, if not disposed of properly, to others, causing more problems.  While the chemotherapy may treat and heal the patient, such chemicals, if released to the environment, may cause more problems, including the development of cancerous cells in other individuals.  With other medical systems, this would not be a problem as such chemicals would not be released into the environment as they may never be used to begin with; alternative treatments have the potential to not provide harm to the environment when used.

One thought on “WP 1 Biomedicine – Ashlyn Sovereen

  1. Hi Ashlyn,
    I am sorry to hear about your grandpa. I know how it feels, because I was in a similar situation with my grandpa a few years ago. I really liked how you structured your blog post because you highlighted the key positives and negatives that the biomedical approach your grandfather is taking has on him. Another weakness I would add to your list is the stigma centered around cancer and chemotherapy. When someone is diagnosed, their social surroundings always change because people all want to help out. There is also a stigma around chemotherapy that it will always be terrible and make you go bald and sometimes more sick. I find that people around those who are in chemotherapy have a lot of pity for those being treated, which could be frustrating around the patient. I hope your grandpa’s last two rounds of chemo go well and he can be cancer free! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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