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Sociology - Medical Knowledge - Essay Example

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Through research by Ludwik Fleck, born 1896, incarcerated in Auschwitz and Buchwald, and Professor of Medicine at the University of Lublin, there is a strong argument that shows how science from ancient times to the present has been constructed by social factors more than by any kind of objective science…
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Download file to see previous pages Fleck's main assertions came through his assessment of the research done on syphilis. He shows that our "thought style" through the ages accounts for the evolution of syphilis studies. The first thinking was from "mystical-ethical" ideas in which syphilis was thought to have come from both fornication and the position of the stars (White, 2002). The second stage of thought was that syphilis was a reaction to heavy metals such as mercury, which was "empirical-therapeutic" thinking. The third stage developed pathogenic thought that caused "perverted blood" to be the main cause of syphilis. And the last, modern, thought style is that of etiological thinking, which arose through the Wasserman reaction that allowed for syphilis testing to be done. Fleck worked on the last stage and notes how the research that discovered this procedure was based upon all the thought styles that had gone before (ibid.). The culture of the first stage relied heavily on the stars for much of their "research". The culture of the third stage may have come from the socio-political influences of the time, a moral outrage of the times, especially as a result of all the reigning kings that came down with syphilis infections. Our current thinking about syphilis is based on the background and training, according to Fleck, of modern day researchers, including his own.
Fleck believed that even the study of bacteriology has been a reflection of our social viewpoint, that it is a social product. He points to common metaphors such as "invading microorganisms invading the body" as being aligned with the expansion of imperialism. It has also been a large concern of militaries throughout centuries of warfare that the soldiers have contracted syphilis.
The ways that people also describe bacteria as "demons infecting the person" is a reflection of the impact of religion on the sciences.
As another example of Fleck's thoughts on constructed medical knowledge, anatomical drawings through history have reflected the thinking of the era. The ancient drawings depicting skeletons, for instance, showed them as death figures and seemed designed to remind people of their mortality. An emotional element was also included in ancient drawings, such as those of the knee that referred to it as the "site of mercy" (White, 2002). By contrast, modern drawings of the human body draw more from the Industrial Revolution (ibid.) by looking mechanized, such as Descartes clockworks.
Bernard Stern showed the opposition to medical practices that we take for granted now when they were first used. Dissection was challenged for the prevailing religious views. Vaccinations were thought to be an unskilled practice not useable by practitioners of their time because they could not charge enough of a fee for them. And the spread of infection by doctors was disputed by doctors because it insulted their professional integrity.
The modern thinking that medicines are the only thing to impact the body while inert products do not can be shown to be a constructed piece of medical "knowledge". This "thought collective" does not account for the 90% cure rate of ulcers with placebo (Moerman, 1981). Fleck calls this "the result of Cartesianism, a mind/body dichotomy."
Health Promoters' Version of Socially Constructed Health Knowledge
Constructionists question the validity of objectivity and factuality in medical knowledge because of the impact of ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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