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Modern Medicine in “ Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Kidder

In the book Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the world, author Tracy Kidder narrates the story of Dr. Paul Farmer. An anthropologist and a physician by trade; Dr. Farmer is an individual who has dedicated his life towards the struggle against infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV, and AIDS. The book is not only a biography that follows the sacrifices and successes of the doctor in various regions. It also discusses his philosophies, as well as the difficulties faced in gaining aid for these people from today’s society. The book also provides examples that illustrate the three themes discussed within the course.

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In the third chapter, the book mentions a few of the most life-threatening diseases which infect various populations in areas such as Haiti. The danger represented by diseases such as HIV is further compounded by factors that spread the disease. In the medical profession, when the spread of the disease is attributed to factors such as economics and social issues. It effectively opens these factors up to medical intervention. Attributing such factors which are outside the sphere of influence of the medical field is known as the medicalization of those factors, which is the first theme discussed.

In chapter four, the second theme can be seen when we consider the story of the little boy known as John. His story shows how professionals in medicine today form opinions based on the facts at hand. John was a little boy from Haiti who was discovered to have nasopharyngeal cancer. Since there was no way he could be treated in the country. Dr. Farmer’s organization incurred a cost of twenty thousand dollars sending him to Massachusetts for treatment. Despite the efforts of the best pediatric oncologists, the boy dies. Thereafter, it can be seen how different factors have influenced the perception of the medical field toward illnesses. According to Dr. Farmer “It is the curse of humanity that it learns to tolerate even the most horrible situation by habituation” (Kidder, 61). The staff members bring up the point that it would have been much more cost-effective to treat other children, in favor of john who would have died anyway. This is an example of the theme showing the nonneutrality of medicine. This is the second theme that relays how the opinions of medical professionals regarding sickness and health are affected by social, cultural, and economic forces. Such as here where economics plays a role in the staff’s perception of who should receive treatment.

These stories, however, do not fully grasp how innovation in medicine has not always been a positive factor. The acknowledgment of medical science being used for good as well as evil constitutes the third and final theme of this paper. In the third chapter, Patients with multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis have been refused treatment with costly drugs in areas such as Haiti and Peru because their treatment is considered to be both cost-intensive and unlikely to be successful. The same may be said of patients with HIV and AIDS, these individuals have been denied treatment simply because their disease is at a stage where treatment is not considered a viable option within the medical sciences. According to Dr. Farmer “No one else […was] treating impoverished Haitians with new antiretroviral drugs” (Kidder, 29)

It is through these three themes and the message of the book itself that we can see it is our duty not only to help those who can be helped. But also those who have been abandoned by society and science and give them the chance they need to survive. “I can’t sleep. There’s always somebody not getting treatment. I can’t stand that” says Dr. Farmer (Kidder, 23). It is through his tireless efforts that not only do these individuals receive the treatment they deserve preserving their human dignity. But also causes us to question our legacy in life and challenges us to make a difference beyond our usual boundaries.

Works Cited

Kidder, Tracy. Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2004.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 3). Modern Medicine in “ Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Kidder. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/modern-medicine-in-mountains-beyond-mountains-by-kidder/

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 3). Modern Medicine in “ Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Kidder. https://studycorgi.com/modern-medicine-in-mountains-beyond-mountains-by-kidder/

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StudyCorgi. "Modern Medicine in “ Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Kidder." November 3, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/modern-medicine-in-mountains-beyond-mountains-by-kidder/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Modern Medicine in “ Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Kidder." November 3, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/modern-medicine-in-mountains-beyond-mountains-by-kidder/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Modern Medicine in “ Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Kidder'. 3 November.

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