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Factors affecting disease; views on terminating comatose patient

1) Your belief in one of the statement(s) below: Is it true -- not at all? completely? or with some adjustments or reservations? What role does cultural background (ethnic roots, religious beliefs, etc) have on your belief in this biomedical model?

(a) Causes of physical disease are found in the body.
(b) A specific disease is always caused by a single, specific, potentially identifiable cause.
(c) The human body is a complex, biochemical machine.
(d) The human body can and should be controlled.

2) In one representative court case, claims were made from legal, medical, parental, and religious bases of authority. A young person had been comatose for months, and was as good as dead in the commonsense view. Her body was being kept alive by technological intervention, and eventually her parents sought legal permission to terminate these extraodinary measures. Because no single authority held uncontested legitimacy, the case was complicated. Medical experts gave their opinions on the medical definitions of death. Legal experts raised issues of the legal rights and guardianship of comatose patients. Theological experts offered briefs on the borderlines of life and death, and the girl's father made a thoughtful personal statement about his request. The relevant issue is not merely the uncertainty of the outcome, but also that is was the court in which medical, legal, religious, and parental figures vied to have their statements taken seriously.

In the above paragraph, share thoughts on what are the different perspectives of these types of situations from "legal, medical, parental, and religious bases of authority." This is an aspect of social experience that stirs strong feelings. However, lets have a sociological point of view.

3) Neither Tom Cruise nor the Church of Scientology is the first to claim that medicine (including psychiatry) has taken charge of too many aspects of our lives. In "Medicalization and Social Control" (Chapter 5, Perspectives in Medical Sociology), Conrad writes, "Medicalization describes a process by which non-medical problems become defined and treated as medical problems, usually in terms of illnesses or disorders." And in "The Social Construction of Medical Knowledge" (Chapter 9, Health, Illness and the Social Body), Freund, McGuire, and Podhurst describe the creation of medical "problems."

(a) Conrad ("Medicalization and Social Control") points out that, "Medicalization has occurred for both 'deviant behavior' and 'natural life processes'" (page 107). Think about your own life and the lives of your family, friends, and acquaintances (such as classmates or co-workers). Identify as many cases as you can where personal, interpersonal, and/or social problems have been defined as "medical." (See course readings and lecture for the many examples of inevitable life transitions and problematic behavior that have been given "medical" definitions.") Write your list here --- given the pervasiveness of this phenomenon, it will likely be easy to think of at least half a dozen -- without identifying the individual by name.

Examples:
Neighbor boy, unruly behavior treated as "attention deficit disorder"
Grandmother, menopause symptoms treated with medication
Roommate, diagnosed with anorexia

My list: father with anxiety and insomnia, friend with depression, I don't know what else....

(b) Select one of these cases, and describe for it:

- How does the medicalization of this problem focus attention on the individual?
- If this weren't an individual medical problem, what other kind of problem could it be (e.g., social, interpersonal, political, economic, spiritual, institutional)?
- What is the "bright" (helpful or advantageous) side for the individual of defining this problem as "medical?"
- What is the "dark" (detrimental) side for the individual of the medicalization of this problem?
- Who benefits from treating this situation as a medical problem?

Solution Preview

1)
(a) Causes of physical disease are found in the body.
Not all the time. There are a lot of external causes of physical diseases, let alone viruses and bacteria.
(b) A specific disease is always caused by a single, specific, potentially identifiable cause.
true
(c) The human body is a complex, biochemical machine.
true
(d) The human body can and should be controlled.
It definitely should be controlled. I am not certain that it is always possible, but a person has to try.

The cultural background has a tremendous role on the relationship between the self and any biomedical model and medicine in general. It has already been proved that diseases and their evolution (aggravation or cure) have an important psychological level, or simply put, the brain affects the body in different manners. What we believe and our system of thinking is directly correlated with our "habitus" (to use Bourdieu´s term), meaning with our inherited and acquired cultural systems. Our religion determines our beliefs, especially those related to suffering, death, salvation etc. Our ethnicity determines on its own terms our conception of life, disease etc., especially because many ethnic groups still preserve parts of their ancient non-Christian religions which offer different conceptions on the relationships between body and soul.

2) A society is constructed on specific rules, otherwise it could not function. In this concrete case, the law ...

Solution Summary

This solution answers several questions. The first discussion is on the causes and factors affecting disease. The second discussion is on the medicalization of parts of our lives. The text contains 956 words.

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