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Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 311–320 | Cite as

Biomechanical and phenomenological models of the body, the meaning of illness and quality of care

  • James A. MarcumEmail author
Scientific Contribution

Abstract

The predominant model of the body in modern western medicine is the machine. Practitioners of the biomechanical model reduce the patient to separate, individual body parts in order to diagnose and treat disease. Utilization of this model has led, in part, to a quality of care crisis in medicine, in which patients perceive physicians as not sufficiently compassionate or empathic towards their suffering. Alternative models of the body, such as the phenomenological model, have been proposed to address this crisis. According to the phenomenological model, the patient is viewed as an embodied person within a lived context and through this view the physician comes to understand the disruption illness causes in the patient’s everyday world of meaning. In this paper, I explore the impact these two models of the patient’s body have had on modern medical practice. To that end I first examine briefly the historical origins of the biomechanical and phenomenological models, providing a historical context for the discussion of each model’s main features in terms of machine-world and life-world. Next, I discuss the impact each model has had on the patient–physician relationship, and then I examine briefly the future development of each model. The meaning of illness vis-à-vis each model of the patient’s body is finally examined, especially in terms of how these two models affect the patient’s interpretation of illness. The paper concludes with a discussion of the biomechanical and phenomenological models, in terms of the quality of care crisis in modern western medicine.

Keywords

biomechanical embodied person lived body meaning of illness mechanized body phenomenology quality of care 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyBaylor UniversityWacoUSA

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