Concept of Disease a General Medical Practice and Homeopathic Medicine Perspective Term Paper

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¶ … Disease: A General Medical Practice and Homeopathic Medicine Perspective

General Medicine Concepts of Disease

Homeopathic Medicine Concepts of Disease

The Concept of Disease: A General Medical Practice and Homeopathic Medicine Perspective

We shall find that, even when there is no clear differentiation of the leech from other members of society, mankind has theories of the causation of disease, carries out proceedings which correspond with those we call diagnosis and prognosis, and finally has modes of treatment which, even if they have little in common with our own remedies, nevertheless may be regarded as making up a definite system of therapeutics. - G. Elliot Smith, 1915

Most people today are familiar with dozens of conditions that are certain are diseases, such as influenza, chicken pox, and cancer. Likewise, healthcare practitioners learn concepts for thousands of additional diseases such as Alzheimer's to yellow fever that may not share much in common except from a conceptual perspective. According to Van Loocke (1999), "Examination of historical and contemporary writings on disease suggests that disease concepts can best be viewed as causal networks that represent relations among the symptoms, causes, and treatment of a disease. Conceptual change concerning disease is primarily driven by changes in causal theories about diseases" (p. 215). Such causal theories about diseases have been the focus of an increasing amount of research over the last 500 years, with numerous explanations arising to help account for that which was otherwise mysterious yet life-threatening. Not surprisingly, researchers have determined that the concept of disease relates in large part to cultural factors as well as individual concepts that are both heavily influenced by the type of healthcare they receive.

According to one authority, "The dynamic process by which patients accept, reject, and adapt information provided by health care providers is exemplified in a study of middle-class women of Detroit, all of whom are diagnosed as hypoglycemic, the women incorporate the physician-provided diagnosis, adapt it to their preconceived concepts of disease, and utilize it to meet the needs and exigencies of their already established lifestyles" (Johnson & Sargent, 1996 p. 124). When these disease concept preconceptions differed, though, patients typically did not respond as well to treatment (Johnson & Sargent, 1996). Likewise, as Rosenbrock and Wright (2000) report, "Recent studies of how people perceive cancer emphasize the importance of lay concepts of disease etiology and the persistence of these concepts to this day in spite of scientifically-based explanations" (p. 94). Taken together, these issues suggest that there is more at work in diagnosing and treating diseases many observers might believe, which leads to the problem under consideration herein which is discussed further below.

Statement of the Problem

Just as humans have searched the heavens to help formulate a unified theory of how the universe operates, healthcare practitioners have been searching for a viable concept of disease to help them better understand what is taking place in the human body and how best to treat these disease processes. To date, though, a functional theory of health and disease has proved elusive for healthcare practitioners and policymakers alike (Brown, 2001); however, only if a purely factual account can be given of the concept of disease will scientific methodology be able to consistently identify and effectively treat diseases (Reznek, 1991).

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study was to provide the relevant background and comparison of general medicine and homeopathic concepts of disease and how their similarities and differences affect the choice of treatment modalities and their effect on the patients involved.

Importance of Study

According to Carlston and Micozzi (2003), "Regardless of a physician's own interest in homeopathy, some of his or her patients are very likely to be using it. At a minimum, physicians must learn about the uses and misuses of homeopathic medicine for their patients' safety" (p. 1). Furthermore, many of these patients are simply unwilling to speak to their conventional physicians about their use of alternative therapies. In this regard, "Self-treatment predominates the homeopathic landscape and its repercussions must highlight any consideration of homeopathy by American health care providers" (Carlston & Micozzi, 2003 p. 2). Today, approximately 6 to 8 million Americans use homeopathic medicines every year without the knowledge of their conventional physician or the supervision of a professional homeopath. "Their conventional physicians therefore do not know whether the effects, beneficial or adverse, their patients are experiencing are from the covert use of homeopathy or from conventional treatment" (Carlston & Micozzi, 2003 p. 2).

Approximately 600,000 American adults were treated by homeopathic practitioners in 1990, and another 1.2 million used homeopathy for self-care; during the past decade, statistics suggest that sales of homeopathic medicine have been rising at an annual rate of approximately 20% (Carlston & Micozzi, 2003). It may well be that this attraction to homeopathy relates to its concept and treatment of disease, considered relatively benign in sharp contrast to many of the methods used by general medicine practitioners - then and now. In this regard, Easthope, Adams and Tovey (2003) report that, "Homeopathy presents a major challenge to scientific thinking because it claims efficacy for remedies that can not be assayed. However, the massive dilution that is a central feature of homeopathic remedies means that many lay people are convinced they are safe. Furthermore, the fundamental premise of homeopathy -- that like is used to treat like -- resonates with lay notions of illness and cure" (p. 16).

Rationale of Study

By putting our focus on homeopaths, we can begin to see modern medicine as having a plurality of perspectives and being a place where the boundary between alternative and orthodox becomes much more difficult to establish" (Johnston, 2004 p. 12).

Methodology

According to Gratton and Jones (2003), a critical reviewing of the timely literature is an essential task in all research. "No matter how original you think the research question may be, it is almost certain that your work will be building on the work of others. It is here that the review of such existing work is important" (p. 51). These authors note that effective literature reviews provide the background to the research to demonstrate a clear understanding of the relevant theories and concepts, the results of past research into the area, the types of methodologies and research designs employed in such research, and areas where the literature remains deficient. To this end, Wood and Ellis (2003) identified the following as important outcomes of a well conducted literature review:

It helps describe a topic of interest and refine either research questions or directions in which to look;

It clarifies the relationship to previous research and highlights where new research may contribute by identifying research possibilities which have been overlooked so far in the literature;

It presents a clear description and evaluation of the theories and concepts that have informed research into the topic of interest;

It demonstrates powers of critical analysis by, for instance, exposing taken for granted assumptions underpinning previous research and identifying the possibilities of replacing them with alternative assumptions;

It provides insights into the topic of interest that are both methodological and substantive;

It justifies any new research through a coherent critique of what has gone before and demonstrates why new research is both timely and important.

Likewise, Silverman (2005, p. 300) suggests that a literature review should aim to answer the following questions:

What do we know about the topic?

What do we have to say critically about what is already known?

Has anyone else ever done anything exactly the same?

Has anyone else done anything that is related?

Where does your work fit in with what has gone before?

Why is your research worth doing in the light of what has already been done?

Based on the foregoing guidance, the following literature review was compiled and reviewed as it pertains to the respective general medicine and homeopathic medicine views concerning the concept of disease.

Chapter 2

Background and Overview

In their book, Partnership and Pragmatism, Rosenbrock and Wright (2001) report that, "Medicine constitutes a collectively accepted body of knowledge which serves as a basis for our behaviour regarding diseases. We could hypothesize that in modern society the so-called everyday theories regarding sickness and health have become less important, given the influential role of medicine. This is, however, not the case" (p. 93). Although the modern medical terminology used to describe diseases and their etiologies have not exactly been entirely adopted into common, everyday ways of thinking by most people outside the medical field, but the manner in which people think about disease and how it affects them personally is an integral part of the concept. According to Rosenbrock and Wright (2001), "This is the case because scientific theories regard diseases and bodily processes isolated from their subjects; the personal meanings which connect the subjective experiences of life and disease are not seen as legitimate areas for medical inquiry. However, the body is not only an object of medical research, it is also the centre of self-interpretation and social orientation"… [END OF PREVIEW]

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