Medicine and Society

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Christina Phillipps

28 September, 2010

Medicine’s Impact: Is there more than meets the scalpel?

Today’s medicine is vastly different than it has ever been in our history and society. We are able to fix, cure and repair almost anything we want in the human body. When the average person thinks of how medicine has affected the American culture, many things- mostly good ones come to mind. However, in the past 100 years it has had a lot of negative impact as well. It is important to look at both the positive and the negative effects medicine and the health industry represent. Because of the medical privileges Americans have access to, there tends to be some taking advantage of what is truly necessary and what is not. It should also be mentioned that in many cases today, the intentions of medical professionals may be different than just helping a patient. Because of the media outpour of medical reality TV, featuring extreme surgeries and prizing people for changing physical aspects about themselves, it sends a different message. Some of the impacts have clearly been beneficial, for example preventative medicine, but others are debatable including new abilities to manipulate life (the abortion/ birth control debate), and the overuse of drugs to fix all our common issues which are just some of the ways medicine has impacted our society.

One of the beneficial impacts of medicine on our culture has been the new improvements and technology in preventing and curing diseases. Long gone are the days where someone would die of the common cold or a sanitation issue leading to the loss of a limb. Many common diseases such as the measles, mumps, polio and influenza were deadly up until vaccines were created to prevent such occurrences. Since these vaccines, the longevity and quality of life has increased as well as decreasing the death toll overall in these areas. With advances in medical equipment that allows early detection of diseases, they are able to recognize a mutated cell or irregular growth earlier than before. Ultrasounds, CTC scans, and X-ray machines make these things possible. Medical professionals are able to catch an infection usually before it becomes a world wide disaster or epidemic with few exceptions like HIV-AIDS.

Other ways current medical technology has saved lives is through stem cell treatment. Although there has been much speculation and controversy regarding stem cell research, it is agreed that specific kinds are for some, their only chance at survival. A new kind called cord blood banking preserve a newborn's umbilical cord blood for potential use against many diseases without any effect on the baby. New medical technology could possibly use these cells to do things such as: rebuild cardiac tissue, repair damage due to stroke or spinal cord injuries and reverse the effects of such diseases as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s. Cord blood stem cells have already been used to treat more than 75 diseases (

In addition to preventative medicine, the ability to manipulate life has had a massive and controversial impact on our society. In the last 50 years with the women’s rights movement, cases such as Roe vs. Wade made abortion legal, opening up a whole world of medical possibilities. Women now have the ability to deicide for themselves if they want to give life or not. Because the Supreme Court does not take a stand on where human life begins, it increases the debate even more. In Washington’s November 2005 Special Elections, voters considered Proposition 73, which if passed would force young women under the age of 18 to notify a parent at least 48 hours before obtaining an abortion, except in cases of medical emergency or when a judge deems that she does not have to involve her parents (called a "judicial bypass"). Proposition 73 also attempted to grant full legal status to fetuses (The War on Young Women's Reproductive Freedom....
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