W7: The Death of the Individual

My experience in the course was beneficial because it helped me to critically analyze my understanding of medicine. Before this class I held the belief that biomedicine was superior to other forms of healing. However, I now have a broad understanding and respect for other forms of medicine that are rooted in culture and religion.

One of the more important themes of the class that I appreciated was the relationship between body and soul. I have had a long time interest in psychology because I always felt that our modern medicine lacked emotional connection to patients. The most powerful example that we were given in lecture was an article by Sarah Berga, M.D. which studied how women experiencing functional hypothalamic amenorrhea were able to recover ovarian activity through cognitive behavior therapy. Studying cognitive behavior therapy, or CBT, in other psychology classes, we learn that when therapists really dig into an individual’s emotional state and help give them the mental resources to change negative ways of coping or thinking, they can cure depression and other cognitive disorders without medication. It was interesting that CBT can also treat physical symptoms, like infertility. I think that this suggests the link between body and mind are closer than biomedicine would have us believe.

Without incorporating counseling into treatments, we tend to rely on medicines. Week 4’s medicalization lecture sparked an interesting discussion of how medicalization removes people from their cultural setting. Cecilia Van Hollen’s article “Invoking Vali: Painful Technologies of Modern Birth in South India” had a brief section discussion how medicalization of the birthing process can go against the natural process of the body, the example given being how women are told to give birth while lying on their back with their knees raised up. While this view of birthing has become normalized in American culture, it is much easier for women to give birth while standing or squatting so as to go with (rather than against) gravity (Gizzo, 2014)

In lecture 7.1, the Limits of Biomedicine by Cynthia Gabriel, we discussed the strengths and weaknesses of biomedicine. The main weakness was how detached biomedicine is from their patient’s individual experiences. Bio-medicalization relies heavily on pharmaceuticals which has many negative moral implications. As discussed in Fault Lines – Outsourced: Clinical Trials Overseas (by newsgroup Al Jazeera), medicine must be tested for safety before being widely dispersed and this has been and is still being done by giving drug “trials” to unsuspecting individuals who are usually low economic status and do not speak English. The end of the video points to the fact that biomedical health care is a business. I thought this was an interesting point because pharmaceutical companies don’t have to set a price for their medication and are able to raise and lower prices at will, which is called price discrimination (Lichtenberg, 2011). This variation in price shows how unregulated biomedicine really is.

Biomedicine still has many advantages. Without it we wouldn’t have the life-saving surgeries and transplants. Still, I would also like to recommend the book My Sisters’ Keeper by Anna Fitzgerald to the class because I feel it was a great novel that discussed some up and coming ethical dilemmas in the biomedical field as we progress with technologies to utilize donors. In all, I think that being critical and making sure to understand all aspects of health (especially at an individual level) was one of the most important messages I got out of this course.



  1. Lichtenberg, F. R. “Pharmaceutical Companies’ Variation Of Drug Prices Within And Among Countries Can Improve Long-Term Social Well-Being.” Health Affairs 30, no. 8 (2011).
  2. Gizzo, Salvatore, Stefania Di Gangi, Marco Noventa, Veronica Bacile, Alessandra Zambon, and Giovanni Battista Nardelli. “Women’s Choice of Positions during Labour: Return to the Past or a Modern Way to Give Birth? A Cohort Study in Italy.” BioMed Research International (2014).

5 thoughts on “W7: The Death of the Individual

  1. Hey Lindsey!

    I think that one of the things I should have mentioned in my post was about the connection between mind, body, and soul. I focused on how we saw prejudice and stigma throughout the topics of the course.

    I think, however, that the connection and link between mind, body, and soul is so important. I remember reading the article about the cognitive behavior therapy. I was so intrigued by this. I could not figure out an explanation which is what biomedicine led me to think I needed for it to be true. I understand, after going through this course, that I know I do not need an explanation. The mind, body, and soul are so closely intertwined that they can assist one another as in the case of infertility or amenorrhea. Mind, body, and soul have a connection so close it is astounding to me; I just wish I would have known more about it when I was younger. I wish it wouldn’t have taken me so long to know.

    Another huge aspect of this country is the medicalization. I think that this course did a great job explaining how truly medicalized we are compared to other countries. I do like how you made the point that, as do the traditional medicines, biomedicine has it’s advantages. I think that this class had so many deep concepts it was hard to hit all of them in this reflection piece, but I think you did a great job! Loved this post!

    Good luck in all of your future endeavors!

  2. Lindsey,
    Before this class I too thought biomedicine was superior to all other forms of healing: I admired how biomedicine approached diagnoses with critical thinking. After taking this course, I’ve also seen its flaws and have come to respect other forms of healing that focus on the mind, body and spirit of the patient. The lack of emotional connection in Western Medicine I think results in the misdiagnosis cases that we hear about in the news, because doctors do not listen to their patients fully before coming to a conclusion, just as we saw in The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.
    I also thought CBT was interesting to learn about. I know that it is widely used with mental disorders such as anxiety and schizophrenia, but I was happy to learn that it can also help with physical symptoms. The brain is so fascinating to learn about because there is still not a lot known about how it works, but Western Medicine is beginning to realize how powerful it really is. For instance, Jo Marchant, author of The Cure: Mind Over Body, explores placebo trials in which we can actually “trick” our minds into thinking that neutral treatments are helping ease physical symptoms such as headaches, IBS, altitude sickness and more. The way in which it works is that, if you really believe you are taking medicine and create a regimen around placebo pills or other treatments, then your brain will begin to think so too (Marchant). It is all about how we associate our treatments with the outcome that we want. Although it can’t always change physical states such as blood-glucose levels in diabetics, it can alter the way we perceive our health and in turn help us FEEL better (Marchant). Placebo treatments are similar to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in which we manipulate the brain into giving us a positive outcome. It’s crazy how much our thoughts really do affect our health! That’s why I find it so important to keep a good bedside manner with patients who are chronically ill. If they believe that they are receiving honest and helpful care, they will be more inclined to perceive it as effective.

    Berga, Sarah, M.D. “Recovery of Ovarian Activity in Women with Functional Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Who Were Treated with Cognitive Behavior Therapy“

    Marchant, Jo. The Cure: Mind Over Body. New York: Crown Publishers, 2016.

  3. I really enjoyed reading your post, and found that I took away similar themes from this class. I too mentioned Dr. Berga’s findings in my post because I find it very fascinating and incredibly important that the physical issue of low fertility was combatted and improved in the majority of women not by using pharmaceutical drugs, but by managing stress and participating in cognitive behavior therapy. This further cemented my belief that yes the biomedical practice has many positive attributes, but that does not mean it is the end all beat all in every medical situation. Continuing to employ the Cartesian duality and separating mind from body, I think, limits what biomedicine can do to help treat a person’s illness.

    Just like with many other things, where there are positives there are negatives, and testing the drugs on people who are poor and do not speak English is definitely a negative. Being able to run tests on individuals who cannot properly give their consent because they are either not notified or they do not understand what is being asked of them is deplorable. These testing methods along with the unchecked prices placed on drugs by pharmaceutical companies not only “shows how unregulated biomedicine is”, as you stated, but also shows how independently powerful these companies are.

  4. Hi Lindsey, I really enjoyed reading your post! I agree that biomedicine is really vital and offers many lifesaving procedures! I also think that if biomedicine were to be integrated better with immigrant cultures and traditions, our healthcare system would really cater to everyone! I really liked the Al-Jazeera article you chose to include as I had no idea clinical trials were being outsourced. It’s really eye-opening and unfair that we treat the people of low socioeconomic status as “guinea pigs” to try new treatments. I feel that it’s a form of structural violence as we have poor individuals from third-world countries testing medicines for the US market. It’s really a weakness in biomedicine and shows how powerful our healthcare system is. I definitely agree with you that the mind and body definitely have a link when dealing with biomedicine. The effect cognitive behavioral therapy can have with treating individuals with infertility to amenorrhea have been shown through multiple studies. I really agree with how you said that this class changed your views on biomedicine. It really changed my views, as well. Being the daughter of a physician, I really have always viewed biomedicine as being superior. This class really made me think differently.

  5. I too believed that biomedicine was the best form of medicine and the only viable option. I am glad to have a better understanding of other forms of medicine and other options. It was interesting to learn that biomedicine actually separated the mind from the body. I too am very interested in psychology and believe the mind and should to be heavily related to the health of the rest of the body. I truly believe that the brain/mind is very powerful and can have major effects on one’s healing process.

    I thought it was very interesting about how you talked about that it is actually easier to give birth standing or squatting. It is information like this that many patients do not even question wen receiving care from western medicine professionals. I am glad I took this course to help me realize that there are other opportunities out there and that I shouldn’t just assume biomedicine is the best route to go.

    I also agree that biomedicine can be compared to a business. It is sad, but I believe most things in America come down to running a business. No one really does anything for free. I loved your suggestion to add My Sisters Keeper to the course. I loved that book and agree it gives a great perspective of the ethical problems in medicine. I’m glad you learned so much in this course and enjoyed it!

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