What is Medicine?

What is Medicine?

What is medicine? What does the word mean? Is it just about disease and death, or does it also refer to health and healing?

Consult a dictionary and you may see three options, the first two of which refer to medical practice or medicine as drugs. The third is the most interesting and I’ll get to that after a discussion of the first two.

1 The science or practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease.

It is interesting how the word science has crept in to the definition: what about medicine as an art? Although I think science here represents the non-practice components such as research and laboratory investigations etc., it represents the restricted manner in which we presently approach health.

I will be arguing in the next post on the “flaws in medicine” series that a strictly scientific approach to health and healing will not be able to deal with the “prevention of disease”

2 A compound or preparation used for the treatment or prevention of disease, especially a drug or drugs taken by mouth. Healing substances or drugs collectively.

Again, this definition is somewhat restrictive as a “compound” is something made from two or more separate elements and implies pharmacy. The word “drugs” reinforces this?

What about herbs, for example? Or even a placebo? And where does the “medicine” of punishment come in – “I’m doing this for your own good”?

The moral and ethical issues, contained in a more soulful or spiritual orientation to health and healing, are not present here.

Or are they?

3 (Among North American Indians and some other peoples) a spell, charm, or fetish believed to have healing, protective, or other power.

Well, here they are… but pejorative! Loaded with terms that imply magical and sexuality maybe?

However, this is not the wider definition of a “spell, charm, or fetish” if the dictionary is again consulted.

And I would argue that things like magic and sexuality have a lot to do with health and healing, and hence medicine.