Friday, April 10, 2009

Do doctors own the illnesses they treat?

There is supposedly a distinction between physical and mental illness. Consequently when an illness descends on a person, it gets treated by the appropriate doctor, a physician. People presume almost automatically that a physical illness is treated by a doctor and a mental illness is treated by a psychiatrist. Both are doctors and yet the psychiatrist is a specialist in his field, the field of the soul, of the intangible. A person with a personality disorders, a schizophrenic person, an autistic person, they are all assigned to a psychiatrist. It's as if the psychiatrist owns these illnesses. This phenomenon might be equated to the assignment of the teeth to a dentist. It's as if the teeth are disconnected from the jaw.

This division separates body and soul. It as if the physician is not responsible for the vagueness of the mental whatever that is. This assumption would be nice and good if the mental did not have a physical seat. There is no question that the mental state is always dependent on the soundness of the physical body. Where is the actual boundary between mental and physical?

I believe this boundary does not exist. Just as the dentist cannot really claim that he only treats the teeth -- after all he has to take the gums into consideration -- and a psychiatrist cannot just treat figments of some one's imagination, a physical doctor must weigh the effects of medical treatment in the form of drugs or surgery in terms of psychological ramifications. There is no real boundary between mental and physical. A doctor does not own an illness. He may treat only by taking the whole body into account no matter how inconvenient it is. Who says the mental is not based in the physical?

Because drugs are right in the middle they need to be treated with utter respect.


Post a Comment

<< Home