BhansaliGHPaper

BhansaliGHPaper - Suneet Bhansali Anth 319 Term Paper TA:...

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Suneet Bhansali Anth 319 Term Paper TA: Maggie M. Smith Spring 2010 Leprosy: A Disease or an Illness In the first chapter of The Introduction to the F f ields of Medical Anthropology , Brown makes a clear distinction between illness and disease as two very different types of sicknesses (Brown year? 11). Disease, illness, and sickness are different terms used to describe human ailments. A disease is a medical condition that impairs biological functions in the body and is associated with specific symptoms and signs. An illness however refers to the patient’s personal experiences of his or her disease. Waxler (cite) uses the example of leprosy to show how cultural and social factors work to turn a medical disease into a sociological illness. Hansen’s disease is an infectious and disease characterized by “disfiguring skin sores, nerve damage, and progressive debilitation” (Leprosy 2009). This trouble is then transformed from vague and disconnected symptoms to a labeled condition that others in the society understand to have a particular explanation and social meaning (Mishler 169). Thus, Hansen’s disease becomes more commonly known as leprosy, and attains negative stereotypes and stigmas. A stigma is an attribute that is deeply discrediting. In social terms, a stigmatized individual is one who is not given the respect and regard of his peers and generally shunned from society. Stigmas usually arise due to blemishes of character or physical deformities, as in the case of Hansen’s disease. The stigma most closely associated with Hansen’s Disease is given the term leprosy stigma and includes the feelings that a leprosy patient, or leper, is shameful. Sadly, the misconceptions of the disease cause people to fear the contagiousness of the disease. This includes ignorant and misinformed doctors of the third world who can worsen the stigma.
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Additionally, the stigma is worsened by programs that tend to isolate leprosy patients into remote islands or colonies. A disease becomes stigmatized usually due to misconstrued social feelings caused by extreme specific cases. It is now understood the cause of leprosy and the different treatments for it. However, since there is no cure for leprosy the final result is expected. If caught early, leprosy can be controlled and the patient can be treated to full recovery. However, in many parts of the world, including the United States and Asia, doctors who have not seen cases before seem to disregard the true effects of the treatments and falsely believe that the treatments “miss the point” (Mishler 169). In addition to this ignorance, the added e a ffects of uneducated society members lead to responses to the disease influenced by social expectations not just the biological characteristics. Hansen’s disease (HD) is a chronic malady cause by the Mycobacterium leprae and
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BhansaliGHPaper - Suneet Bhansali Anth 319 Term Paper TA:...

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