PHIL 226, Week 2
What are Health and Disease?
What are the goals of the health sciences?
These questions matter for issues concerning national health plans and allocation
What are concepts?
- Defined: necessary and sufficient conditions.
- Exemplars: good examples and counterexamples.
- Prototypes: typical conditions.
- Explanations: causal relations.
- PHIL/PSYCH 256 on concepts.
What is Health?
World Health Organization:
- "Health is a state of complete physical and social well-being and
not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
- "The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one
of the fundamental rights of every human being."
Problems with these claims:
- Does health require complete well being?
- Is there a right to maximal health care? To minimal health care? Adequate
My attempt: Health is the capacity to satisfy your vital needs, both biological and psychological.
What is Disease?
1. Biological definition (objective): disease is an impairment of normal biological
function. The concept of disease is descriptive and scientific.
2. Social definition (normative): disease is a condition that constitutes
a threat to well-being. The concept of disease is normative and value-laden,
relative to social contexts.
3. Combined definition (Thagard): ?A disease is a breakdown in normal biological mechanisms that diminishes people’s ability to satisfy their vital needs.
History of concepts of disease.
The Right to Health Care
- What kind of health care system should a country have?
- What treatments should be provided by a health care system?
Options for delivering health care
- Current Canadian system: publicly administered, comprehensive, universal,
- Modified Canadian system: make reforms to improve it, e.g. with a drug plan.
- Free market: health is a commodity.
- Modified free market (US): national coverage for old and very poor.
- Two tier system (UK): national health plan, but people may also access private
- Medical savings plan (Singapore). Everyone has a sum of money to spend on
health care, and extreme expenses are covered.
Ranking of 16 health care programs by the Conference Board of Canada.
Life expectancies in countries.
- What options are best supported by the consequences ERP?
- What options are best supported by the rights/duties ERP?
- What options are best supported by the principles ERP?
- What options are best supported overall?
- Respect for persons: autonomy, protect those with diminished autonomy
- Concern for welfare: quality of life, avoidance of harm
- Justice: fairness and equality
Review Questions for Week 2
- What is the WHO definition of health and what might be wrong with it?
- What are Callahan's modest conclusions about health?
- What is the difference between objectivist and normative conceptions of
- According to the Canada Health Act, what are the criteria for funding provincial
plans? How might these criteria be justified ethically?
- How does the 2002 Royal Commision Report on Health propose to improve the
Canadian health system? How might these changes be justified ethically?
- What is the difference between purposive and functional approaches to what
medical treatments should be funded?
- Essay topic: Use the consequences, rights/duties, and principles reasoning
patters to evaluate what you think are the most plausible options for delivering
This page updated Sept. 17, 2012