Reflections on Humanizing Biomedicine


Although biomedicine is responsible for the “miracles” of modern medicine, paradoxically it has also led to a quality-of-care crisis in which many patients feel disenfranchised from the health-care industry. To address this crisis, several medical commentators make an appeal for humanizing biomedicine, which has led to shifts in the philosophical boundaries of medical knowledge and practice. In this paper, the metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical boundaries of biomedicine and its humanized versions are investigated and compared to one another. Biomedicine is founded on a metaphysical position of mechanistic monism, an epistemology of objective knowing, and an ethic of emotionally detached concern. In humanizing modern medicine, these boundaries are often shifted to a metaphysical position of dualism/holism, an epistemology of subject knowing, and an ethic of empathic care. In a concluding section, the question is discussed whether these shifts in the philosophical boundaries are adequate to resolve the quality-of-care crisis.