Living Through Illness

In the past few decades medicine has largely transformed into biomedicine bringing many social scientists into laboratories and hospitals to study how patients cope with diseases. Levels of today’s medicine allow us to keep living with a disease and anthropologists have studied people’s experience through disease. Disease and illness are often used interchangeably but disease is more accurately “an alteration in biological structure or functioning,” while illness is “how the sick person and members of the family or wider social network perceive, live with, and respond to symptoms and disability.” The rise of knowledge regarding how to live with disease is prevalent on the Internet. The Internet has become a community for people with the same disease to discuss their coping methods. This exists not only for the patients, but also for family members seeking help from other people who have had to care for loved one’s with illnesses.

Biomedicine has made huge advancements in modern societies, but it still fails in terms of availability, quality and accessibility in underdeveloped countries. The lack of access to resources keeps the underdeveloped countries from gaining a better quality of life. In some cases countries have the resources but they are in the hands of higher powers that refuse to distribute them. In other cases, people have medications, but don’t have the resources for the medications to work correctly. For example, a person may have access to a certain medication, but if it needs to be refrigerated and they don’t own a fridge, the medicine will not work effectively.

Strides are slowly being made to help patients learn how to live with diseases in underdeveloped nations. For example, in Uganda HIV positive patients are receiving medicinal help, but are also learning how to live life through therapy. Living with disease is a concept happening throughout the world but the coping mechanisms are much more livable in more developed countries. Lack of available resources in underdeveloped countries continues to hinder quality of life and prevents these citizens from living dignified lives.

Reference: Wahlberg, Ayo. “Knowledge of Living.” Somatosphere. N.p., 10 Nov. 2014. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.


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