From Mechanistic Biomedicine to Organismal Systems Medicine


Biomedicine, the predominant medical model that emerged during the twentieth century, is founded conceptually on mechanism and reductionism, especially in terms of portraying the patient as a machine reducible to its component parts. Systems medicine, in contrast, has emerged during the early part of the twenty-first century to address problems arising from biomedicine’s failure to cure diseases such as cancer. In this paper, a conceptual framework is provided for shifting from mechanistic biomedicine to organismal systems medicine. Specifically, organicism and holism provide the necessary foundation for viewing the patient not simply as a diseased or dysfunctional body part but as a whole person embedded within a biological, psychological, social, and environmental framework. Although biomedicine’s approach has identified many of the physiological and pathological components of health and disease, a shift to organismal systems medicine promises to deliver the principles and rules by which these components relate and interact with one another in a holistic rather than simply in a reductive mechanistic fashion.
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