Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mental Illness Is Subject To Biological And Sociocultural Factors, Bioethicist Says

Date:
February 20, 2008
Source:
Arizona State University
Summary:
Biology is crucial to understanding psychosis, "but there is more to psychosis than mere biology," says one bioethicist and philosopher of science. While he acknowledges that it's certainly the case that DNA and brain scans are going to be important, "if you ignore everything else, you might never have the capacity to actually influence the well-being of the patient."

Biology is crucial to understanding psychosis, "but there is more to psychosis than mere biology," says Jason Robert, an Arizona State University bioethicist and philosopher of science.

"Psychiatrists in particular appear to be grappling with the complexity of classification and diagnosis," Robert explains. "But I am always worried that the prime material of the psychiatrist -- often ill, unhappy people who behave in bizarre ways -- will be ignored in favor of DNA tests results or brain images, with almost certainly negative impacts on patient well-being."

Robert, an assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences at ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will bring conceptual research and perspective to the subject of cross-cultural issues in defining mental illness during a presentation on Feb. 16 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting.

"My claim is that gene maps and brain scans will likely not be able to offer universal, culture-free representations of the essence of mental illness. That is, mental illness is subject to biological and socio-cultural factors, such that isolating any of these as core elements will almost always miss the mark at the expense of patient care," he says.

Robert will dissect the notion that personalized medicine is the wave of the future. "In many people's minds, personalized medicine means medicine tailored to an individual's genetic makeup. We have heard over and over again that genetics and neuroscience will revolutionize medicine, and these claims come with elaborate predictions about new taxonomies of disease, new diagnostic tools, and fabulous new treatments.

"None of these predictions have borne out, in part because they fail to grapple with the complexity of human beings -- as brains, bodies, and, embedded in culture, steeped in history, and dynamically creating their own words," he says.

"If we're really going to have personalized medicine, we have to be focusing not just on the genome, but the person," Robert says. He adds that this is an emphasis with medical students in the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix, in partnership with Arizona State University, where he holds a faculty joint appointment.

"We feel this newest generation of physicians have to be deeply well-trained in genetics and neuroscience, but not at the expense of a deep and meaningful training in interpersonal communication, interaction with actual people who really at the end of the day are your patients and your first priority," Robert says.

"Within psychiatry, questions about the aetiology, classification, and diagnosis of complex disorders, such as schizophrenia, span cultural and national boundaries," he says. "My take-home lessons are these: Classification and diagnosis are complex, interpretive and analytical tasks. These tasks are more complex in cross-cultural contexts, whether local (within the U.S.) or global.

"Genetics and neuroimaging may prove useful in simplifying these tasks, but only if integrated with clinical phenomenology -- careful clinical description based on patient narratives, observation, and interpretation -- to serve the needs of embodied and enculturated people, not disembodied brains or genomes."

One major concern, according to Robert, is how to operationalize these philosophical and ethical ideas in the development of new diagnostic and classification manuals, such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V and the International Classification of Disease -- 11.

"While there is clearly a commitment to embrace an integrative and systems approach to mental illness in such efforts, it remains to be seen how this will affect the final products," he says.

"A second major concern is how to educate mental health care professionals toward cultural competency in ways that are sensitive to the dynamic, constitutive nature of culture, rather than merely presenting so-called facts about 'this is what Native Americans/Latinos/Ugandans believe about this, that, and the other thing,'" Robert says.

"We shouldn't pretend that culture is any easier to understand than a person is; to understand that you can't have caricature of culture in mind. What's really critically important is understanding cultures dynamically, as complex, historic, social and political structures that dramatically influence people's lives."

While Robert acknowledges that it's certainly the case that DNA and brain scans are going to be important, "if you ignore everything else, you might never have the capacity to actually influence the well-being of the patient."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Arizona State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Arizona State University. "Mental Illness Is Subject To Biological And Sociocultural Factors, Bioethicist Says." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080216142152.htm>.
Arizona State University. (2008, February 20). Mental Illness Is Subject To Biological And Sociocultural Factors, Bioethicist Says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080216142152.htm
Arizona State University. "Mental Illness Is Subject To Biological And Sociocultural Factors, Bioethicist Says." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080216142152.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google's Next Frontier: The Human Body

Google's Next Frontier: The Human Body

Newsy (July 27, 2014) Google is collecting genetic and molecular information to paint a picture of the perfectly healthy human. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A U.S. doctor has tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, as the worst-ever outbreak continues to grow. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins