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Diseases: Definition and causes

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Erwin-Schrödinger-Saal
Plenary / Panel
english language

Speakers

Former Editor, British Medical Journal; Professor and Director, UnitedHealth Chronic Disease Initiative, London Abstract Key Note
Disease: construction and reality
Health, normality, and disease are all ultimately impossible to define. Disease was thought of by hunter gatherers as demonic possession, and Hippocrates was the first to suggest that it might have natural causes. The idea of disease as an external, autonomous entity persisted, however, and Thomas Sydenham classified disease as others classified plants. But many diseases are social constructs. Homosexuality became a disease and then ceased to be one, while there is a contemporary struggle over making female sexual dysfunction a disease. It may be that in an age when people live longer and have multiple conditions that the concept of disease has outlived its usefulness.

BSc MB ChB MSc Richard SMITH

Former Editor, British Medical Journal; Professor and Director, UnitedHealth Chronic Disease Initiative, London

1976-1979 Hospital doctor in Scotland and New Zealand
1979-1991 Assistant editor, British Medical Journal
1991-2004 Editor of the British Medical Journal and Chief Executive of the BMJ Publishing Group
2004-2007 Chief Executive of the UnitedHealth Europe

Health Symposium

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