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Arizona State bioethicist says mental illness is subject to biological and sociocultural factors
Date:2/16/2008

, we have to be focusing not just on the genome, but the person," Robert says. He adds that this is an emphasis with medical students in the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix, in partnership with Arizona State University, where he holds a faculty joint appointment.

We feel this newest generation of physicians have to be deeply well-trained in genetics and neuroscience, but not at the expense of a deep and meaningful training in interpersonal communication, interaction with actual people who really at the end of the day are your patients and your first priority, Robert says.

Robert will introduce the AAAS audience to the complexity of diagnosis and management of mental illness, from the perspective of the individual and across cultural boundaries.

Within psychiatry, questions about the aetiology, classification, and diagnosis of complex disorders, such as schizophrenia, span cultural and national boundaries, he says. My take-home lessons are these: Classification and diagnosis are complex, interpretive and analytical tasks. These tasks are more complex in cross-cultural contexts, whether local (within the U.S.) or global.

Genetics and neuroimaging may prove useful in simplifying these tasks, but only if integrated with clinical phenomenology careful clinical description based on patient narratives, observation, and interpretation to serve the needs of embodied and enculturated people, not disembodied brains or genomes.

One major concern, according to Robert, is how to operationalize these philosophical and ethical ideas in the development of new diagnostic and classification manuals, such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V and the International Classification of Disease 11.

While there is clearly a commitment to embrace an integrative and systems approach to mental illness in such efforts, it remains to be seen how this will affect the final products, he says.

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Contact: Carol Hughes
carol.hughes@asu.edu
480-965-6375
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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