, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 311-325

The naturalness of the artificial and our concepts of health, disease and medicine

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Abstract

This article isolates ten prepositions, which constitute the undercurrent paradigm of contemporary discourse of health disease and medicine. Discussion of the interrelationship between those prepositions leads to a systematic refutation of this paradigm. An alternative set is being forwarded. The key notions of the existing paradigm are that health is the natural condition of humankind and that disease is a deviance from that nature. Natural things are harmonious and healthy while human made artifacts are coercive interference with natural balance. It is suggested that the current paradigm is influenced by the world of finances and by instrumental reason. The alternative model suggests that human nature cannot be delineated. Humans fashion their own selves and nature by artificial means, medicine among them. The article discusses the implications of the paradigm adapted in various scholarly and popular debates such as the use of sex hormones for contraception, the care of the elderly, holistic medicine and distributive justice in health care. Medicine is not an isolated or a privileged realm. There is no unique entitlement to health care. It is always part of a broader agenda of social values and institutions. A open view of human societies, values and practices as they are situated within concrete material conditions is the platform required for an integrative and creative discourse of health care.

This revised version was published online in July 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.