On the value-neutrality of the concepts of health and disease: Unto the breach again

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 25 (5):539 – 567 (2000)
A number of philosophers of medicine have attempted to provide analyses of health and disease in which the role that values play in those concepts is restricted. There are three ways in which values can be restricted in the concepts of health and disease. They can be: (i) eliminated, (ii) tamed or (iii) corralled. These three approaches correspond, respectively, to the work of Boorse, Lennox, and Wakefield. The concern of each of these authors is that if unrestricted values are allowed to infect our concepts of health and disease, then anything could be construed as healthy or diseased. They believe that, if at all possible, such a result should be avoided. Unfortunately, as I argue, this result is unavoidable and such attempts to limit values in these concepts are destined to fail. I argue for this position by showing how each of these three attempts to provide value-restricted analyses of health and disease fail as analyses of the concepts of health and disease and that they fail because of their attempts to restrict the role of values in their accounts. I also show how, despite their best efforts, each of these analyses are, themselves, value-driven and value-laden. This leads to the conclusion that values infect our concepts of health and disease at all levels.
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