Philosophy Of Medicine

.. ritual practices of animalism and sacrifice were a waste of time. Because observation, experience, or experiment cannot arrive at the answers to such questions, they must be products of the reasoning mind(Tauber).

Such matters are very close, in fact, to the province of religion and in Asia, the answers to these questions are normally put in a strictly religious framework. In much 20th-century Western philosophy, metaphysics has been dismissed as pointless speculation that can never achieve positive results(Tauber). Nevertheless, metaphysics has many defenders who still explore notions put forward by Plato and Aristotle( the average person, common sense says that there is a real world of perceivable objects. These objects can be analyzed and understood with a high degree of accuracy.

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Philosophers have not been able to let the matter rest there. In the case of Lias health, her parents felt that less medication, and less hospitalization would make Lia better. They felt that their touch and healing power alone could cure their beloved child.The doctors felt otherwise and based this on the assumption that they were right and that Western medicine was the only accurate and trustworthy method to treat a patient. In Western culture, being sick is technical not moral (Tauber). The underlying question was how much of the illness was technical and how much of it was part of the social commune (Tauber).

Finally, the question that both the doctors at Merced as well as Lias parents ask themselves is if the problem could have been avoided. This leads us to question both their value systems.The main concern for Lia was her health and the doctors of Merced made sure that they did everything they could despite irreconcilable differences regarding Lias medication with her parents as well as the notion that Lia would be better if she stayed at home without the treatment of doctors. While reading the book, Faddiman questions whether the choice to put Lia in a foster home was a moral one.

Would she have been better off in the care of her parents whom neglected to give her the numerous combinations of drugs because they believed it would harm her? This brings in the role of ethics and moral, and what they mean in Western culture. Another name for ethics is morality. One word is derived from the Greek ethos, meaning character, and the other from the Latin mores, meaning custom.(www.compton.

com) Because both words suggest customary ways of behavior, they are somewhat misleading. The Greek philosopher Aristotle had a better term–practical wisdom.It was called practical because it was concerned with action, both on the part of the individual and on the part of society. It had to do with what should or should not be done(www. Aristotle divided practical wisdom into two parts: moral philosophy and political philosophy. He defined them together as a true and reasoned state of capacity to act with regard to the things that are good or bad for man.

( The field of ethics has several subdivisions. Descriptive ethics, as its name suggests, examines and evaluates ethical behavior of different peoples or social groups.

Normative, or prescriptive, ethics is concerned with examining and applying the judgments of what is morally right or wrong, good or bad(Blais 93). It examines the question of whether there are standards for ethical conduct and, if so, what those standards are.Comparative ethics is the study of differing ethical systems to learn their similarities and contrasts(Blais 93). In modern developed societies, the systems of law and public justice are closely related to ethics in that they determine and enforce definite rights and duties. They also attempt to repress and punish deviations from these standards. Most societies have set standards, whether by custom or by law, to enable those in a society to live together without undo disruption(

It is possible for law to be neutral in moral issues, or it can be used to enforce morality. The prologue to the United States Constitution says that insuring domestic tranquility is an object of government. This statement is morally neutral.Such laws as those passed to enforce civil rights, however, promote a moral as well as legal commitment(Blais 93). So much human activity is simply a matter of custom or habit that little thought may be given to many actions.

When an individual in Western society gets up in the morning, it is normal to get dressed and to put on shoes before going out. However, in doing so, one does not usually bother thinking This is a good and necessary thing that Im doing. There is a great deal of behavior, however, in which people are conscious of why they act in a certain way. They are confronted with the need to make choices.At the basis of choice two questions arise: What good do I seek? and What is my obligation in this circumstance?(Blais 93) Ethics is primarily concerned with attempting to define what is good for the individual and for society(Tauber). It also tries to establish the nature of obligations, or duties, that people owe themselves and each other.

Philosophers have said for thousands of years that people do not willingly do what is bad for themselves but may do what is bad for others if it appears that good for themselves will result. It has always been difficult to define what is good and how one should act to achieve it(www.askjeeves.

com). Some teachers have said that pleasure is the greatest good.Others have pointed to knowledge, personal virtue, or service to one’s fellow human being. Individuals, and whole societies, have performed outrageous criminal acts on people, and they have found ways to justify doing so based on some greater good.(Blais 93) The difficulty in deciding what good and obligation are has led moral philosophers to divide into two camps. One camp says that there are no definite, objective standards that apply to everyone(Blais 93). People must decide what their duties are in each new situation.

Others have said that there are standards that apply to everyone, that what is good can generally be known. If the good is known, the obligation to pursue it becomes clear.The position that insists there are ethical standards is called ethical absolutism, and the one that insists there are no such norms is called ethical relativity(Blais 93).

One of the clearest and most useful statements of ethical absolutism came from Aristotle in his ‘Nichomachean Ethics (Blais 93)’. He realized that what people desire they regard as good. Nevertheless, to say no more than this means that all desires are good no matter how much that they conflict with one another. Consequently, there can be no standards at all. Aristotle solved this problem by delineating between two types of desire–natural and acquired( Natural desires are those needs that are common to all human beings such as food and shelter.

Beyond these, people also have a desire for health, knowledge, and a measure of prosperity. By being natural, these desire, or needs, are good for everyone. Since there can be no wrong basic needs, there can be no wrong desire for these needs(www.comptons.

com). However, there are other desires as well. These are not needs but wants.It is at the level of wants that the nature of good becomes clouded. Individuals may want something they desire as a good, but it may be bad for them. People with sound judgment should be able to decide what is good for them, in contrast to what is only an apparent good(Blais 93).

This sound judgment comes with experience. Young children have little experience of what is good or bad for them, so they must be guided by parents and other adults. Mature adults, however, should be able to decide what is good for them, though history demonstrates that this is not always the case. People must decide what is good for others as well as for themselves(Fadiman 97).That is, they expect that goods for them apply equally to other people. To be able to treat others in the same way one treats oneself, Aristotle said it is necessary to have the three virtues of practical wisdom: temperance, courage, and justice(www. Relativists do not believe that there are self-evident moral principles that are true for everyone. They say that people’s moral judgments are determined by the customs and traditions of the society in which they live(Blais 93). This is a clear example of why the Hmongs views differed from Western culture.These may have been handed down for centuries, but their age does not mean they are true standards. They are simply norms that a certain society has developed for itself. What is right is what society says is right, and whatever is considered good for society must be right.

If this were the case, did Lias doctors do everything they could? Were they clouded by the mentality that Western medicines was superior to the Hmong culture and disregard the practices that Lias parents strongly believed would save their child? If the doctors had taken a different approach from the beginning and hired interpreters and had not been one-sided in their beliefs, would Lias fate be changed? As with life, all choices involve risk. There are no principles or standards that are right for all people at all time.New situations demand new approaches. What was once valid may be inappropriate now. In the world of the 20th century–with its rapid changes, endless wars, and moral upheaval–the ideas of existentialism have seemed correct to many people in the world(www.comptons .com).

Some existentialists base their position on religion(Blais 93). Even here they say it is impossible to fall back on moral laws or principles in making decisions.Choices must be made on faith, often in conflict with traditional moral guidelines. Individuals trust that what they are doing is right, but they can be entirely wrong. They commit themselves to the unknown, and the decision can often be an agonizing problem.

The Hmongs beliefs were based on their faith in the healing power of their medicine. Before Lia became severely ill, Hmong did not entirely dismiss Western medicine. They did, however, believe that a combination of the two would be more effective than just Western medicine.

Students of comparative ethics have found that most societies–from the ancient to the modern period–share certain features in their ethical codes(Blais 93).Some of these have applied only within a society, while others have been universal. Most societies have had customs or laws forbidding murder, bodily injury, or attacks on personal honor and reputation. Societies rely on rules that define elementary duties of doing good and furthering the welfare of the group. In societies where the major religions–Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism–are predominant, the duty of helping the needy and the distressed has been implanted(www.comptons.

com). These obligations extend beyond family to acquaintances and even strangers. Telling the truth and keeping promises are also widely regarded as duties.

When Lia was taken away to a temporary foster home, the doctors promised Lias parents that she would return to them in six months. When their promise fell through and Lia was not returned as promised, Lias parents began to disbelieve the system, which was intended to protect the individual. The United States represents a series of ideals. For most of those who have come to its shores, it means the ideal of freedom–the right to worship as one chooses, to seek a job appropriate to one’s skills and interests, to be judged equally before the law. It means the ideal of the frontier, of overcoming obstacles– taming the West, curing diseases, voyaging to the planets(Fadiman).It means the ideal of progress–that personal life and political, social, and economic institutions will improve through hard work, fair play, and honest endeavor. It means the ideal of democracy–the right to be heard as an individual, the right to cast a ballot in a free election, the right to dream of a better life and to work toward one’s goals(Fadiman).

The Hmong did not have this voice, nor felt their opinions mattered in the case of Lias health. In America they felt like foreigners, in their homeland they felt the same. The fate of Lia Lee may have been different if not for ignorance, superiority in Western medicine, and a cultural barrier that still continues today.

Bibliography Blais, Debbie.

The ethics of specialization. Unpublished paper. University of Alberta (1993). Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. Noonday Press.Canada, (1997).