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Limitations Of The Bio-medical Model

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Illness is simply a matter of bad luck, bad judgment, or bad genetics. Critically analyse this statement by applying a sociological imagination to explore the social origins of illness?

Critically discuss the limitations of the bio-medical model.

In 1946, the World Health Organisation defined health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’? Why might some groups regard this definition as ‘radical’ and ‘utopian’? Who might these groups consist of?


The social, cultural, genetic and economical factors profoundly influence the onset and progression of diseases in human population. Indeed, the clinical literature reveals the societal factors including smoking habits, consumption of unhealthy products, lack of adequate diet and physical activity and alcohol intoxication as the preliminary causes resulting in the development of moderate to severe morbidities across various developing and developed regions of the world (Eckersley et al, 2001, pp. 80-81). The evaluation of illness in terms of bad luck, corrupt genetics or inappropriate judgement relates with the probability of disease development due to environmental predisposition and inappropriate diagnosis by the physician.

The biomedical model emphasizes the systematic phenomenological approaches in empirically evaluating the disease processes to identify the patterns of health and wellness in humans. The most important limitation of biomedical model includes the lack of dogmatic strategies in evaluating disease burden under the influence of societal, environmental and psychosocial factors. Indeed, the biomedical model fastidiously excludes the subjective approaches in determining disease conditions and psychosomatic status under the scope of patient’s experience of disease and quality of rendered care by the medical fraternity (Kriel, p. 36). Furthermore, the biomedical model disregards the humanitarian perspectives while dealing with the patients’ population.

The health definition as prescribed by WHO believed to be utopian and impractical by the groups advocating the empirical evaluation of diseases under the influence of biological rather than psychosocial factors. These groups firmly believe that the perfect state of well-being is never achievable for a longer term under the influence of psychosocial and environmental fluctuations (Barofsky, 2012, p. 253). The contention of social influences on the state of health and wellness among humans makes the “wellness” entity questionable due to lack of statistical evaluation strategies (for wellness), as advocated by the critics of WHO heath definition. These groups of critics primarily include medical professionals, clinicians and researchers believing in the empirical assessment of the disease burden across human population.



Barofsky, I. (2012). Quality: Its Definition and Measurement As Applied to the Medically Ill. New York: Springer.

Eckersley, R., Dixon, J., & Douglas, B. (2001). The Social Origins of Health and Well-being. United Kingdom: Cambridge.

Kriel, J. R. (2000). Matter, mind, and medicine: Transforming the clinical method. Amsterdam: Rodopi.


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