Defining Disease: The Gold Standard of Disease versus the Fiat Standard of Diagnosis

Szaz, Thomas
January 2006
Independent Review;Winter2006, Vol. 10 Issue 3, p325
Academic Journal
This article presents a discussion on how to define diseases. Illness and healing are as old as civilization, but the scientific-materialist approach to medical healing is less than two hundred years old. Traditionally, the physician was a private entrepreneur. In the twentieth century, the federal and state governments begin to regulate and restrict the sale of medicines and the practice of medicine. Medical science is concerned with the empirical investigation of the human body by using precisely defined and rigorously applied concepts and techniques. Medical practice is not only a science; it is also a type of human service which is shaped by economic, ideological, religious, and political interests. Medical scientists, politicians, and public need a standard to define disease. They want a fiat standard of disease which is open to change in accordance with fluctuating economic, ideological, and political interests and fashions. By using such a standard, two tables of diseases can be made: one contains only somatic pathological entities; and the other is composed of a mixture containing such entities together with a host of human conditions unrelated to somatic pathology.


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