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J Med Philos. 1986 Aug;11(3):215-32.

Variable meanings for the definition of disease.


It is argued that there is no agreed definition of disease. Purely biological definitions are inadequate and combined biological and social definitions are not yet satisfactory. One approach has been to say that what doctors treat is disease. We are uncomfortable with that because we feel it releases people from obligations on a basis of convenience. In practice the weight given to the idea of disease varies according to what it will imply about obligations and privileges. It is suggested that what doctors treat can be accepted as disease provided that we recognize that the significance of disease must vary with circumstances. Those circumstances include the agreement, more or less, of all persons affected when someone is considered to be a patient. The individual must also be competent and not constrained except by his own biological or psychological characteristics.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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