nature of disease

August 18, 2011

The notion of disease as a living organism, a species which is threatened in its development to its ‘true nature’ by the hospital and the practice of medical diagnosis underpins the theory that an analysis of symptoms separate from an analysis of the patient; the classification of the disease, and the nature of the hospital and medical practice; the space diseases are treated, inhibits an understanding of the disease; its origins and manifestations and the question of treatment.

The ‘gaze’ of a medical practitioner upon the surface of the human body in conjunction with an understanding and the subsequent application of a categorical analysis of disease is the basic means of gauging an appropriate clinical response to one’s ailments. The treatment of disease as an invader of the human body, a foreign entity dismisses the spectrum of effects that a disease may have on the overall disposition of the patient. The disturbances or crisis of the patient are considered negatives that mislead diagnosis. The neutralization of a secondary tear of symptoms to fit in with the parameters of the classified symptoms of diseases undervalues the nature of disease as a species. Diseases inhabit the life of the body, circulate freely traveling and inhabiting organs without reference to studied patterns and calculations of the trajectory of this invading force.  ‘In disease, one recognizes life because it is on the law of life that knowledge of the disease is also based [1].’ Allowing the disease to reach its true nature, is to reveal the nature of life its self. ‘ … it reaches the truth of the disease only by allowing it to win the struggle and to fulfill, in all its phenomena, its true nature [2].’

A more penetrating gaze and understanding of the individual as a ‘portrait of the disease’ giving life to the species through infirmities, pains, gestures and postures is responsive to the true nature of disease. In the hospital, the ‘temple of death’, diseases mutate, combine with one another and lose their sense of identity,the hospital ‘alters the proper nature of the disease and makes it impossible to decipher [3].’ The institution of the hospital as argued by Foucault is a detrimental environment to the treatment of diseases. ‘As one improves one condition of life, and as the social network tightens its grip around individuals, ‘health seems to diminish by degrees’ [4]’. The institution of the hospital is in opposition to the nature and fertile ground of the institution of the family and ‘social space conceived in its most natural, most primitive, most morally secure form.. where the illness is left to itself [5]’. The protection and preservation of the disease, the ascendancy of the disease to its ‘true nature’ lies in recognizing the nature of disease as a synonymous part of self.


[1] Michel Foucault, ‘Space and Classes’,  The Birth of the Clinic, Routledge Classics, London, 2003, p. 7

[2] Ibid, p. 9

[3] Ibid, p. 18

[4] Ibid, p. 18

[5] Ibid, p. 19


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