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.
- 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).
- 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).