Paradigm shift? Biomedical science and social work thinking

Authored by: Malcolm Carey

The Routledge Handbook of Social Work Theory

Print publication date:  July  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9780415793438
eBook ISBN: 9781315211053
Adobe ISBN:


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Biomedicine is the study and practice of medical science and includes biology and the physical functioning of the human body. It has for more than a century endured as the principal belief system on which modern medicine and the clinical components of healthcare are built. Although often dynamic and sometimes capable of reform (or reinterpretation through active agency), biomedicine vigorously endeavours to remain objective and emotionally detached and historically has struggled to engage democratically with other theories, professional belief systems and models of practice (for example, Estes, Biggs, & Phillipson, 1996; Witz, 1992). Diagnosis, the use of evidence-based research and treatments to alleviate illness and the relative abstraction of human experiences all appear central to biomedical thought and praxis. Yet other priorities have been noted, including attempts to move beyond epidemiology and the treatment of the body’s ills to enter the domains of politics, ethics, political governance and everyday life itself (Illich, 2010; Rose & AbiRached, 2013).

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