The Dominance Of Biomedicine And Challenges To Its Discourse

3477 words - 14 pages

Contemporary approaches in understanding health, illness and its treatment largely differ from the traditional way of treating people’s health conditions. For instance, before the “Age of Reason” beliefs about vindictive spirits, evil and divine intervention, and practices of sorcery and witchcraft were widely held (Porter 1997 as cited in Williams, 2003). Another example is the practice of Greek medicine; a more naturalistic approach used by the practitioner to tune the body through humoral theories of balance and lifestyle modification. Similarly, during this age, the combination of physical, emotional, and spiritual factors contributed to the development of the “sick man” (Williams, 2003). These medical teachings were authoritative until the eighteenth century. However, towards the nineteenth century, numerous discoveries such as Vesalius’ anatomical atlas and Harvey’s process of blood circulation challenged mainstream medicine, which paved the way for the rise of a newer and more systematic form of medicine (Williams, 2003, p. 11), marking the growth and supremacy of scientific medicine. The evolution of scientific medicine is well documented in several literature (Gabe, Keheller, & Williams, 1994; Longino, 1998; Marcum, 2008; Morris, 2000; Quirke & Gaudilliere, 2008; Williams, 2003). A progressive shift from preference of either licensed or unlicensed healers to the legitimization of the medical profession and medicalisation of natural life experiences had occurred (Gabe, et al., 1994). With this, scientific medicine, commonly known as biomedicine, continued to dominate the discourse of health and illness from the end of the 18th century up to the present (Williams, 2003). Despite this perceived supremacy, scientific medicine faces serious challenges from unconventional narratives, which view human illness not as a machine or malfunctioned body part but as a distinctive experience of meaning-making and embodied being (Morris, 2000). Recognising these conflicts produces skepticism and concern, increasing interest and uncertainty about scientific medicine (Mozes, 2010).
Accordingly, this essay will discuss the dominance of biomedicine in major western societies such as United Kingdom, Australia and the United States of America, with reference to significant challenges to this dominance. This essay will begin with a brief history of biomedicine followed by its assumptions and critiques. There are several challenges to the supremacy of scientific medicine, however this essay will only explore two major challenges, specifically, use of Random Controlled Trial (RCT) as evidence and the rise of Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM).
To understand scientific medicine, one must first consider its philosophical foundation. During early medical times, any complaint associated with the body was believed to be a result of both natural and spiritual factors (Longino, 1998; Williams, 2003). Healers in ancient times treated the whole person’s body,...

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