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Exploring health and disease concepts in healthcare practice: an empirical philosophy of medicine study.

BMC Medical Ethics 2024 March 28
In line with recent proposals for experimental philosophy and philosophy of science in practice, we propose that the philosophy of medicine could benefit from incorporating empirical research, just as bioethics has. In this paper, we therefore take first steps towards the development of an empirical philosophy of medicine, that includes investigating practical and moral dimensions. This qualitative study gives insight into the views and experiences of a group of various medical professionals and patient representatives regarding the conceptualization of health and disease concepts in practice and the possible problems that surround them. This includes clinical, epistemological, and ethical issues. We have conducted qualitative interviews with a broad range of participants (n = 17), working in various health-related disciplines, fields and organizations. From the interviews, we highlight several different practical functions of definitions of health and disease. Furthermore, we discuss 5 types of problematic situations that emerged from the interviews and analyze the underlying conceptual issues. By providing theoretical frameworks and conceptual tools, and by suggesting conceptual changes or adaptations, philosophers might be able to help solve some of these problems. This empirical-philosophical study contributes to a more pragmatic way of understanding the relevance of conceptualizing health and disease by connecting the participants' views and experiences to the theoretical debate. Going back and forth between theory and practice will likely result in a more complex but hopefully also better and more fruitful understanding of health and disease concepts.

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