I had no idea what philosophy was, but reading a book recently, I discovered how much Galen prioritised  philosophy- is this something that influences medicine today? I am not sure if my understanding of philosophy is ‘correct’ but from my understanding of philosophy and how it can be applied to medicine.

The main problem is that thinking cannot result in actions that influence society, not without the help of other, louder voices:

Philosophy allows us to ask the important questions as it is the quest for wisdom or knowledge through critical thinking. What are our motives? For new drugs treatments, there is a real need for the motives behind development to be criticised since money is the loudest voice in terms of pharmaceuticals, not the benefits to health. This demonstrates the limits of philosophy- the actions of humans are not pushed by what is right or best, or justified but out of what will benefit this in charge or certain groups of people. What is health?- This a questions answered by the critical thinking of philosophy but is the answer being carried out in the health services around the around?

Even in terms of world views, philosophy provides the questions of the motives that move the world and criticism of them but do these correlate to change in society? I think that the ‘we only live once’ view has effected how we live and that may have started philosophically but isn’t it the pushes of consumerism that have encouraged us to really live out this phrase?

I think that philosophy also stresses the importance of not losing perspective and in medicine; this may be if there is a problem with a patient or when something in the operating theatre goes wrong and you are then responsible for the death or life changing effect on another person’s body in your attempt to actually improve their lives. The perspective of saying that the operation or your role was done to best of your ability puts that life into the bigger picture. This is an area where I think that philosophy may contradict the aims of medicine in terms of the Hippocratic Oath of ‘first do no harm’ since that implies that the individual patient should be more important to a doctor than the thousands of people; we need to focus on the needs of the patient and their treatment and so taking a step back at some times to have perspective of philosophy could be detrimental, however it does reduce the effect of past mistakes on future procedures. Again, there are times when philosophy is important like in making decisions but in practice and in ‘competition’ with other fractions of life, it can clash.

There are also limits in what philosophy can achieve as it is just a way of thinking and can’t always stimulate action. For example, philosophy calls for consistency and in medicine this would be in the treatments and diagnosis given; a patient with a sore throat may just need some cough syrup or be presenting the symptoms of laryngitis. There needs to be set criteria of how to distinguish each case but this is not something that thinking can achieve- it is science that allows there to be consistency in medicine as certain symptoms and pathological tests have been developed to identify a certain illness, leading to a clear definition of an illness.

In terms of modern interpretation, the euthanasia argument shows that philosophy cannot stand alone- if life was just about the ‘meaning of life’ then the answer would be easily answered that if people weren’t living for anything, except to be kept alive by medicines or in pain- what is the point of them living if they are not seeing their own life as having a meaning? What actually determines whether people get to choose in hospital are the rights of individuals and the ethics of life and death that our built around the societal views about death. We don’t want to think about death- how can society alter our thinking if we don’t want to start thinking about difficult issues in the first place? I think that philosophy get us thinking about the big problems but sometimes it cannot be relied upon in practice always.

Overall, I think that philosophy is not dead in medicine but is severely suppressed or manipulated to fulfil the plans and schemes of other businesses. Also, philosophy cannot stand alone because for the thinking to influence our ideas, lives and actions, there needs to be benefits proven which is why I think that science and philosophy go hand in hand.

What do you think about the role of philosophy in the modern day? What did I miss out? Like and comment below!

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