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Rethinking Clinical Practice: Toward a More Materialistic Medicine

Rethinking Clinical Practice: Toward a More Materialistic Medicine

(p.70) 5 Rethinking Clinical Practice: Toward a More Materialistic Medicine
The Distressed Body
Drew Leder
University of Chicago Press

The chapter presents a philosophical analysis of the ruling medical paradigm, and a suggested remedy. Modern medicine is often accused by diverse critics of being “too materialistic” and therefore insufficiently holistic and effective. Yet this critique can be misleading, dependent upon the ambiguous meanings of “ma­terialism.” The term can indicate the prevalence of financial concerns in driving medical practice. Alternatively, it can refer to “mechanistic materialism,” the patient viewed as a Cartesian body-machine. However, in each case these do not suggest an authentic materialism, but rather medicine’s focus upon high-level abstractions. “Bottom-line” financial or diagnostic numbers can distract practitioners from the real embodied needs of sick patients. In this sense, contemporary medicine is not materialist enough. Through a series of clinical examples, this chapter explores what an “authentic materialism” would look like in current and future practice. Discussed are the use of prayer/comfort shawls at the bedside; hospitals and nursing homes redesigned as enriched healing environments; and a par­adigmatic medical device—the implantable cardioverter defibrillator—as it might be presented to patients in a holistic context.

Keywords:   modern medicine, holistic medicine, materialism, healing environments, Cartesian

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