Wednesday's Child

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The development of medicine in a purely naturalistic perspective served to objectify illness, making of it a reality considered in itself and for itself. Illness came to be construed as uniquely physiological and somehow independent of the afflicted person. Rather than treat the person, many physicians today treat illnesses or organs. This fact - complicated by diagnostic methods that are increasingly quantitative and abstract, together with therapeutic methods that are more and more technical - has had as its primary consequence the effect of considerably depersonalizing medical practice. This factor, of course, only increases the distress and isolation of the ill person. A second consequence has been to divest patients of their illness and suffering, thereby limiting their means for dealing with them. By regarding sickness and suffering as autonomous realities of a purely physiological character - and consequently as susceptible to treatment that is purely technical, applied to the body alone - modern medicine does practically nothing to help the patients assume them. Rather, it encourages the patient to consider that both their state and their fate lie entirely in the hands of the physicians, that the only solution to their troubles is purely medical, and that the only way they can endure their suffering is to look passively to medicine for any hope of relief and healing.
-Jean Claude Larchet-


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