Sunday, June 25, 2017

Health as the capacity for action

Autonomy in Patient-Centered Care for Chronic Conditions

Currently the concept of health as the absence of disease is absolutely outdated. The goal of clinical care has moved towards health-related quality of life. I have to admit that this is more an aim than a reality, but many professionalos share this view. If this is so, then considering health as capacity for action becomes critical. Mark Sullivan explains this view in an outstanding book, specially on part 3 and 4.

The turn to HRQL arose from the recognition that observable characteristics of the body could not provide an adequate account of the overall burden of chronic disease on individual patients or on the population as a whole. But the HRQL concept merely tried to add the experience of the patient to a notion of health defined by observable damage to the body or objective disease. It is not adequate to talk about the subjective experience of objectively defined health states. Health is not an objective state because neither death nor disease are always bad for patients. Most patients now choose to limit the medical care they receive at the end of life because they do not see death as the worst possible outcome. Similarly, it is possible for older adults to live well despite multiple chronic diseases. HRQL has not provided a fundamentally new metric for health and has not succeeded in redirecting clinical trials or activity to a more patient centered set of goals.
Any adequate, comprehensive, and valid approach to health must focus on personal agency, or the capacity of the person to achieve his or her goals. This is the only way we will understand and achieve individual well- being. This personal agency is both a means to well- being and an intrinsically valuable component of it. We conceptualize health and well- being as capabilities rather than as objective or subjective states: “our capability to lead the kind of lives we have reason to value.” To explore and define a new sense of health as agency, we will need to understand the various ways in which health and action are related.
A deep view of bioethics and the concept of health, all together. Good read for this summer.




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