On Sickness and on Health
BMJ (British Medical Journal). 1986 Feb 1; 292(6516): 318-320.
The meaning of health, its relation to illness and disease, and its aspects that are of particular importance in medical ethics are the foci of Gillon's essay, one of a series on philosophical medical ethics. He argues that the World Health Organization's definition of health--"a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity"--is too broad for use by physicians in patient care. Defining illness and disease--those components of ill health with which doctors are concerned--might help delineate the physician's role in restoring or preserving health. Gillon summarizes the realist and nominalist approaches to disease and to the question whether it is an evaluative or a value free concept. He suggests that the definition and ascription of illness are of such social importance that decisions concerning them should be made cooperatively by doctors and society. (KIE abstract)