Toward a more materialistic medicine: the value of authentic materialism within current and future medical practice.
Modern medicine is often accused by diverse critics of being "too materialistic" and therefore insufficiently holistic and effective. Yet, this critique can be misleading, dependent upon the ambiguous meanings of "materialism." The term can refer to the prevalence of financial concerns in driving medical practice. Alternatively, it can refer to "mechanistic materialism," the patient viewed as a body-machine. In each case, this article shows that this represents not authentic "materialism" at play, but a focus upon high-level abstractions. "Bottom-line" financial or diagnostic numbers can distract practitioners from the embodied needs of sick patients. In this sense, medical practice is not materialist enough. Through a series of clinical examples, this article explores how an authentic materialism would look in current and future practice. The article examines the use of prayer/comfort shawls at the bedside; hospitals and nursing homes redesigned as enriched healing environments; and a paradigmatic medical device--the implantable cardioverter defibrillator--as it might be presented to patients, in contrast to current practice.
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