Archive for the ‘Week4_Human Body and Medicine’ Category

Friday, February 27th, 2009

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“The Hypocrite’s Oath” by Danya Linsteadt

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

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When I read the two oaths, it made me think of the HIV and AIDS epidemics. Especially how the modern oath talked about preventing disease and how both of them talk about doing everything in their power to heal the sick. Unfortunately the HIV and AIDS epidemics affect a huge portion of the world’s population and people could do so much more to help. It bothers me that all doctors take this oath then many of them sit in their nice houses with more than enough money while people are dying all over the place. I feel they should be using their knowledge, talent, and disposable income to help more people. They should be working to make medication available to everyone who needs it instead of only those who can afford it. They should be working to educate everyone on how to prevent disease from spreading instead of only dealing with it when it comes to them. I feel like most people would rather ignore such huge problems rather than face reality and have to deal with it.

Week 4:The Good and Bad Sides of Medical Technology by Sarah Lechner

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

The topic of this week’s blog was very interesting to me because I am interested in pursuing a career in medicine. Particularly, I am fascinated by the art of surgery. I am a biochemistry major looking to double major in neuroscience, and I eventually want to go to med school and specialize in neurosurgery. Therefore, the topic in lecture this week is very relevant to my future career. Because neurosurgery involves surgeries on a very small scale, machines and technology are often required for the successful completion of the surgery. Many of the procedures done on the brain must be extremely precise, and as technology advances, machines are quickly becoming the most plausible way to obtain this precision.

In the photo above, an electrode is being inserted into the brain in order to treat Parkinson’s disease. It is implanted deep into the brain in order to stimulate the malfunctioning tissue.

Technology has also made it possible for surgeons to “operate” without even cutting into the skull. An example of this is the Gamma Knife radiosurgery that has recently become common practice.

The Gamma Knife is a machine that safely delivers very large amounts of radiation to an extremely specific region in the brain. This region is no larger than a pinpoint. This technology allows physicians to treat brain tumors, both malignant and benign, as well as other brain disorders without actually invading the brain. These procedures were, in the past, considered high risk; now, using the Gamma Knife machine, people can have “brain surgery” in the morning and be at work by mid-afternoon.
Gamma Knife

While advances in technology are positively affecting some realms of surgery, technology also serves in more controversial areas of medicine. One example of this is plastic surgery. We saw some very strong visuals of this during lecture. The artist Orlan uses her body as a canvas as she undergoes plastic surgery. Personally, I find voluntary plastic surgery as grotesque and unnecessary. The new Hollywood trend of altering the face and body is unnatural. I think that undergoing risky surgery for personal gain shouldn’t be permitted. Plastic surgery has been painted as a casual procedure because of its popularity, but people need to realize that it is still a dangerous surgery.

Relating plastic surgery back to the oath—I feel that performing unnecessary surgery is a violation of the Hippocratic Oath. Hippocrates states in his oath that practitioners should “abstain from whatever is deleterious.” I think that by some means, plastic surgery can be considered deleterious. It is potentially harmful to the human body and is also not used to cure the patient, but only to appease them.

Conclusively, the use of technology in medicinal practices is a double-edged sword—it proves both advantageous and harmful, depending on the situation. It is for good reason that the Hippocratic Oath is sometimes called the hypocritical oath. Practices such as miracle drugs and plastic surgery seem to openly violate the Hippocratic Oath. If physicians can learn to use technology only for the good (like neurosurgery and other helpful purposes), then the upcoming advances in the medical field will prove to be great news for the human race.

Week 4 _Human Body and Medicine by Dalton Abbott

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

When first prompted by Professor Vesna to realize a true connection between art and medicine, I must admit that, like many other times in this class, I was initially skeptical. When multiple connections were made on a variety of different planes, however, I started to comprehend the validity in establishing a connection between the two. Were medicine purely scientific, doctors and scientists would not be constantly creating updated vaccines and cures to common diseases and conditions. Though I know the reactions between medicine and the human body require a great amount of scientific study and comprehension, if doctors lacked the creativity to approach an old problem in a new light, and relied solely on science, new discoveries would be few and far between. To make such a discovery or draw such a conclusion in medicine often requires one to think outside the box in the sense that one must alter an approach or a technique to make a truly groundbreaking discovery. To do this, the doctor must employ the creativity and free thinking that one would expect to see much more evident in an artist.

I believe that many of the similarities between the two deal with the perception made possible by the human eye.

The eye allows one to observe. Observation in medicine is a key component to the success of a doctor. He must observe symptoms and test results in order to create an accurate diagnosis of the problem and the way to fix it. The artist as well relies on the eye. Art, in almost all cases, is primarily visual. The use of coloration, depth of plane, and subject matter by the artist is all viewed through the eye of the observer. The truly incredible thing about the eye playing a major factor in both art and medicine lies in the idea that attention to detail is what fuels both fields. In medicine, doctors, when analyzing symptoms of patients, reading test results, or researching cures and vaccinations, must look for the slightest anomaly that may effectively end up altering their overall perception of any problem. There are such a vast number of sicknesses with seemingly indistinguishable symptoms, test results may so often seem normal if not for one little break in a constant pattern, and a different approach to creating a vaccination for a widespread disease may appear to be giving similar unsuccessful results unless the doctor is truly paying attention to each and every detail.

In art, details also play a major role. Many would argue that specific, seemingly small parts of a certain piece give it meaning and a lasting effect on humanity, such as Mona Lisa’s infamous smile. This argument exists because everything artists choose, they choose for a specific reason. Whether it is coloration, facial expressions, or background, artists pay attention to detail, utilizing every possible aspect of their work to convey a certain emotion or attitude. In conclusion, I’ve come to understand the many similarities between art and medicine by understanding that medicine, despite what many may think, is not an exact science. It requires the same free thinking, creativity, and unique perception that an artist must utilize on an everyday basis.

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

The more the class seems to delve into the connection between art and science, I find myself questioning what part of science and technology does not have a connection with art. This week lecture revolved around medicine and art.  Now this connection I have always seen, ever since I saw the Body Worlds exhibit at the California Science Center. The exhibit was a interesting collection of preserved bodies, medical history, and simple satisfaction of curiosity.

Body Worlds

I remember feeling very curious and fascinated about the fact that there were real bodies being displayed in a variety of positions  trying to display conceptual ideas. The way the bodies were displayed wasn’t gross or anything, but rather simply fascinating and artistic.

Looking back at the exhibit and thinking about science as art, I question whether most of the visitors looked at the exhibit as entertainment or as a learning tool. I do remember that I was one of the few who actually listened to our tour guide, most just ohhed and ahhed and thought all the displayed plastinated bodies were just “so cool”. I questioned how effective the exhibit actually was.

In thinking about the human body which is normally viewed by most people as a scientific item as a form of art, I immediately thought of scarification as a variety of using the body for expression. Basically, scarification requires the “artist” to carefully cut the skin of the client in a design so that when it heals, it will create a scar. Although consider very much taboo in Western society, scarification is actually common in many african and amazonian tribes. This form of body modification can be extremely dangerous, more so than tattooing, since it does involve an open wound and requires the artist to basically have the skill and responsibility of a surgeon with a scalpel.

Prior to actually meeting an artist who does this work, I never would have thought of a scar as a possible form of artwork. To me, scar were just a result of getting cut using a table saw, or from surgery. When I met my friend the artist, this all changed. Scars don’t have to be a ugly momento of that knee surgery or that cesarean section. One of the first occasions he actually did was on a guy who had gotten open heart surgery and wanted to modify his surgical scars to create a more meaningful design, something that meant a lot to him. Personally, the thought of someone coming near me with a scalpel ready to just cut my skin and nothing else for the sake of self expression, is just a tad too much, but I do commend those who willing for the sake of expression and sometimes art, go under the scalpel so to speak.

Body art is another fascinating way the body has been used for art. Interestingly, the female body has most often been used for this art perhaps b/c of the softest of the female silhouette. This type of art has a wide form of use from use in photographs to a costume for Halloween.

The body gets modified in so many ways, from simple eye piercings to scarfication to manipulation of waist size with corsets to plastic surgery, people has found many ways of expressing art, personal taste, or ideals of beauty. 

Week4_The Human Body and Medicine by Manuel Aleman

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

            Medicine is the art and science of healing.  Some people may ask what does medicine to do with art?  First, they both share common attributes such as they both try to complete what nature has not and they both deal with the physical, visible world.  Second, are the similar qualities that are demanded from the painter and physician.  They both have to be able to observe minute details, which unlock a painting or the predicament of a patient.  Observation demands attention, and this is the key to both art and medicine. Attention is nothing more than a state of receptiveness toward its object, the artist to nature, the viewer to the work of art, the physician to the patient. It is no accident, I believe, that clinicians — or treating physicians, as they are often called — are referred to as ‘attending physicians.’ ‘Attention’ and ‘attend’ are both derived from the same Latin root meaning “to stretch toward”.  Just like artists, physicians have to use the “finest tools” available, which include the finest in knowledge, skills, and character of the physician.  Technology has helped in advancing medicine by giving physicians more tools to use in aiding the ill.

Medicine applies health science, medical technology, and biomedical research to diagnose and treat injuries and diseases, typically through medication, surgery, or some other form of therapy.  An interesting advancement in medicine is robotic surgery.  Robotic surgery is the use of robots in surgery.  Recently robots have been used in many areas of medicine including in the aid of surgery.  There are many advantages of robotic surgery, such as precision, smaller incisions, less pain, miniaturization, decreased blood loss, quicker healing times, articulation beyond human manipulation, and three-dimensional magnification.  Three major areas that robots have aided in surgery are remote surgery, minimally invasive surgery and unmanned surgery.

              A minimally invasive procedure is any procedure (surgical or otherwise) that is less invasive than open surgery used for the same purpose.  A minimally invasive procedure typically involves use of laparoscopic devices and remote-control manipulation of instruments with indirect observation of the surgical field through an endoscope or similar device.  They are carried out through the skin or through a body cavity or anatomical opening.  Minimally invasive surgery causes less pain and scarring and reduces the incidence of post-surgical complications.  One disadvantage in comparison to an equivalent invasive procedure is that the operative time is longer, but an advantage is that hospitalization time is shorter.  Remote surgery (also known as telesurgery) is the ability for a doctor to perform surgery on a patient even though they are not physically in the same location.  Remote surgery is telecommuting for surgeons because it allows the expertise of specialized surgeons to be available to patients around the world, without the need for the patient to travel beyond their local hospital.  One surgical robot is the da Vinci Surgical System, which is controlled by a surgeon.  The da Vinci System provides all the same advantages as other surgical robots, but it also includes safety features designed to minimize opportunities for human error.  As technology advances other areas such as medicine will advance as well, which will improve peoples lives.

Manuel Aleman

Week 4: Human Body and Medicine: The new canvas_ by Carmin Pelayo

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

When relating medicine to art, one’s inclination is to think that the similarity is the use of creativity to advance each one of them; however, they are more intertwined then one may think.  One of the most elementary examples is oath which every doctor must take, the Hippocratic Oath.  While to many people being a medical practioner means knowing all of the scientific facts, memorizing illnesses and reporting it in an assembly line of patients; the fact is that the most important part of any doctor is there most “artistic” characteristic, their ability to carry out all tasks at hand in the most humane way possible.  It is the compassion and sympathy that is displayed by physicians that separates them from the robots that with each passing day are more capable of doing the job they have been trained to do.  So thanks to the ethical foundation of science and the understanding addition of art, medicine becomes one of the most harmonious fusions of both of them.


Nonetheless, one of the greater disputes occurring today is when does the integration of art into medicine and dealings with the human body cross that ethical line that has been so highly regarded since the time of Hippocrates?  In a society that has so greatly and quickly changed since our humble beginnings and now demands beauty, uniqueness, and sometimes a fusion of both, we bgin to wonder when that line has been reached or disregarded.


                With the great cultural change come extreme forms of art, and once the canvas became less satisfying, many turn to the most ultimate form of art, becoming the canvas themselves.  This isn’t a rarity in our society.  It began with the use of make up as a medium to do so, and eventually people turned to an equally as common form, the tattoo.  While originally used as a form of distinction or a rite of passage they are now a common form of art which pretty much permanently associates you with whatever image you choose.  Another very common form of body art are the famous piercing, but just as the tattoo’s “extremeness” declined, so did that of the piercing However, with the increase of their use amongst mundane people, the “rebels” and extremists of society needed to find other ways to keep their edge.  They turned to different ways to keep their individuality; many forms of which are used ritualistically in foreign tribes as a form to show your maturity and acceptance within their society.

Some turn to branding, burning the image into your skin.

Some will even raise it to another level.  When the surface of the skin becomes old news, they begin to modify themselves from quite literally inside them.  Placing implants to  change the appearance underneath their skin and sometimes even appear to have horns.



the question comes to be, should one place the same medical ethical guidlines to body art?

this like shows the painful process of creating crocodile skin, and why they do so:


~carmin pelayo

Others use human scarification, an evolved form of what many tribes would use to create their passage to manhood.  Many would slit their backs to make it resemble crocodile skin.

Week 4: The Art of Progress - by Adam Parker

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

The question of whether science is an art form and whether art is a form of science has been argued about for ages. I believe both statements are true. For some, science is just as artistic as a painting. Cutting open a human body and performing open heart surgery could be the same to the surgeon as sketching a landscape is to an artist. The Oath, by Hippocrates, seems to agree with the notion of science as an art. He repeatedly uses the word “Art” to describe the practice of medicine:

“I will keep this Oath and this stipulation- to reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents.”

“I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons.”

“With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art.”

Through the years, these phrases have evolved into the modern Hippocratic Oath, which says:

“I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.”

I feel it is necessary to include this section of oath because it is completely true. By practicing medicine alone, and viewing it just as a form of altering the human body, people might lose sight of everything it stands for. Science is not just science. Art is not just art. And medicine is not just medicine. All fields of knowledge are related to one another, and without realizing this, progress will not be possible.

This past week’s discussion of the human body and how medicine and technology can affect it reminded me of a conversation that I had with a friend weeks ago. We were discussing the advancement of today’s technology and how it has influenced life as we know it. As an engineer, I believe that our purpose in life is to progress. I believe that we as the human race have infinite potential. I believe that we are supposed to discover as much about ourselves and the world as possible and to create things that we have the ability to create. My friend on the other hand has a very different view. As a very spiritual human being, he believes that we are not supposed to interfere with life and death. If a human is dead and has no pulse, he is of the impression that we do not have the right to use technology to bring them back; once someone is taken from us, we must let them go.

Now here come the hypothetical situations: a young girl is hit by a car and an ambulance arrives on the scene with an automatic defibrillator. According to me, I believe that everything in their power should be done to try and save the girl. According to my friend, he thinks that by using a machine to bring the girl back to consciousness is interfering with fate. He says that once the person dies, their spirit leaves their body and nothing should be done to screw with that. Now, I’m not saying that he is wrong, just that I disagree with him. Since we discovered the means to create this technology, I think we have earned the right to use it. New situation: the young girl is hit by a drunk driver. By harnessing years of knowledge, we can use this technology to try and correct at least a small percentage of horrible events that occur. The girl should not have to give up her life because of someone else’s stupid mistake. I asked my friend one last question: what if the young girl was your daughter? Would you not beg the medical technicians to save your own child? After a moment of thought, he was still convinced he wouldn’t want technology interfering. I told him he will probably change his mind if he ever has a kid, but only time will tell.

Week #4: Art, the Body and Medicine-Jeff Poirier

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

“I will remember that there is art to medicine, as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.”

The above quote, as taken from the Modern Version of the Hippocratic Oath by Louis Lasagna, is an outstanding summation of the interwoven disciplines of the artist and the doctor of medicine.

In past weeks, we have discussed the influence of mathematics and science on art. Such influences include the usage of the Golden Ratio and Golden Rectangle, the Fibonacci Sequence, and fractals to enhance the visual aesthetics of art. We too have discussed the artistry of science, with such things as the robotics of Stelarc and Ken Feingold to the medically inspired works of Orlan. Also, in considering the two cultures, we discussed the reality of the schism and stereotypes that have developed between the two disciplines, art and science. Below is a depiction of the fabled “mad doctor.”

I believe that Lasagna had a very accurate vision of what medicinal integrity truly should be. Whether or not the characteristics and qualities of doctors of medicine discussed in the Oath are applicable to today is another question entirely. With so many lawsuits of malpractice stemming from today’s hospitals, it is doubtful that the Oath is in full effect. Interestingly, the role of a surgeon since the days of Hippocrates has changed drastically. For example, the age of silicon and plastic surgery has increased the number of “unnecessary” procedures taking place, a practice likely unthinkable in 400 B.C.E. with every medicinal procedure a question of life or death. Yet another dynamic change from the Oath of Hippocrates is the mention of contraception, abortion, and euthanasia. Hippocrates explicitly denounces these practices, which even today are topics of heated debate regarding medical ethics. In the Lasagna version of the Oath, no predispositions regarding such debates are presented; a much more open perspective, indeed.

Science has made its way into a fair share of artwork as well. For example, the work of Gunther von Hagens in Body Worlds is awe inspiring from both a scientific and artistic perspective. The plastination process utilized in these exhibits is of the most advanced nature in science, while the artistry of the “sculptures” arouses a broad spectrum of emotions and education.

The work of Gunther von Hagens in Body Worlds makes one consider the Hippocratic Oath on a whole new level. In the days of Hippocrates, I am sure that such a presentation (and potential defacement) of the human body would have been deemed to be of the most unethical nature. However, in today’s society, a society with a much more open mind, such exhibitions are accepted as artistic genius.

In summation, I believe that the human body and medicine as an artistic medium closely relates the Two Cultures, mathematics in art and mechanization as art together. The Oath of Hippocrates and the modernized version by Lasagna pose interesting questions regarding medicinal ethics that continue to be applied today. Surely, the work of a surgeon is an art form and the exertion of an artist is a science of precision, with both intertwining and growing within one another and independently.

Below is an article discussing the ethics of Body Worlds:

-Jeff Poirier

Week 4_Robots are not humans by Cheng-Kuang Liu

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

I was actually quite grossed out by all the graphic images presented in the lectures: an artist uses her own face as the canvas to create art through plastic surgery that “distorted” her face, human beings were tied down and experimented upon as if they were machines, and so on. Some of those sci-fi films that depicted the grim future of mankind both shocked me and got me thinking. What eventually came to me was not anything grotesque or graphic but something quite kind and dear to the heart—the movie “Bicentennial Man.” It is a movie by Robin Williams and it is a warm, family type film. I don’t remember all the details too clearly, but it basically describes a servant robot, played by Robin Williams, who was in contact with humanity for an extended period of time and eventually adopted the human ways, including human compassion, love, and wisdom. He eventually became human enough to fall in love with a human female. But when he pleads to be married, the government will not allow it because he is not a human being. As a robot, he does not age, get sick, or feel any pain. So he set out to “modify” himself step by step to become more and more human. He constructed a device that was equivalent to the central nervous system, so that he could feel pain. The ultimate step of his transformation was to allow blood to circulate in his body. Gradually, he turned into a mortal being who was consumed by various weaknesses that accompanies age. He eventually died in bed with his lover. The moment he expired, the government passed the act that allowed him to be married to his lover.

Though I was quite young when I saw the film, I was very touched by it. Now in retrospect, I realize that this film has very much to do with what we talk about in class. There seems to be a craze among all the people for robots—mechanical beings the bear characteristics of man, yet not touched by human weaknesses, such as sickness, aging, and emotions. Based on this idea many movies, cartoons, and comics were produced, portraying these strong, eternal beings. Yet “Bicentennial Man” does the exact opposite—a robot pursues human qualities, even though these qualities are seemingly “weaknesses.” This is beautiful. Our natural tendency is to look away from our weaknesses, yet these are the exact traits that make us human. Whatever how strong, capable, or “smart” robots are, they are not human beings simply because robots do not possess these weaknesses. The idealized robots in movies may be combinations of “perfect human beings” and “technological miracles,” but it is precisely the imperfections and the non-uniformity that make us human. According to this view, weakness is an indispensable feature to be human. Therefore, in a sense, these weaknesses are to be embraced as something dear and near to us. Perhaps this is the sentiment shared by these artists who create art concerning human sicknesses and weaknesses. But perhaps the sentiments of these artists are exponentially more amplified than what I can perceive. Therefore even though their works seem grotesque and distasteful, they present candidly an essential aspect of humanity. It is indeed an underrepresented aspect that most people shun away from, but these artists faithfully reminds us of this aspect of us humans, an aspect that is an absolutely indispensable element that constitutes us human.

My line of thought here is not in line with the reading, but I would like to acknowledge Hippocrates’ oath as something quite noble. Nobility is also a major attribute of humanity. Doctors, as represented by Hippocrates’, are good models of human beings. Average people shun away from sicknesses. Doctors devote themselves to study sicknesses in order to eradicate them. Artists described in this article also study sicknesses, but in order to present them in an amplified way, in order to make the average people aware.