Positive and Negative Aspects of the Who Definition of Health, and Their Implications for a New Concept of Health in the Future

  • Piet Van Spijk
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 72)


Working as a doctor in an outpatient psychiatric hospital, I had just finished the treatment of a young homosexual woman who had recently separated from her girlfriend. She experienced a strong grief reaction and came into treatment for this reason. She improved rather quickly, and it was at that moment that I was confronted with the following practical question: Does a homosexual person, who feels reasonably well, require further treatment? Is such a person healthy or not? What are the grounds for a “yes” or “no” in response to this question? The medical library of the University Hospital where I worked, and the medical literature in general, was of little help in answering such questions. I was surprised to find nothing there.


Biological Level General System Theory Inanimate Matter Homosexual Person Pure Objectivity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bertalanffy L.v.: 1962, General System Theory, George Braziller, New York.Google Scholar
  2. Callahan, D.: 1973, ‘The WHO definition of “health”,’ Hastings Center Studies 1 (3), 73–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Engelhardt H. T.: 1981, ‘Concepts of health and disease,’ in A. Caplan and H.T. Engelhardt (eds.), Concepts of Health and Disease: An Interdisciplinary Perspetive, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, London.Google Scholar
  4. Frankl V. E.: 1972, Der Mensch auf der Suche nach Sinn (original title: Das Menschenbild der Seelenheilkunde), Herderbücherei, Freiburg.Google Scholar
  5. Freud S.: ( 1953 [19041), Freud’s Psychoanalytic Method, The Hogart Press, London.Google Scholar
  6. Galen C.: 1951, ‘De sanitate tuenda,’ in R. M. Green (trans.), A Translation of Galen’s Hygiene (De Sanitate Tuenda), Charles C. Thomas, Springfield, Illinois.Google Scholar
  7. Gorowitz, S.: 1978, ‘Health as an obligation,’ in W. T. Reich (ed.), Encyclopedia of Bioethics, The Free Press, New York, pp. 606–609.Google Scholar
  8. Hersch J.: 1981, ‘Santé: l’utopie d’une definition,’ in Schweizerische Aerztezeitung 62, 1531–1532.Google Scholar
  9. Hufeland C. W.: ( 1853 [1796]), ‘Hufeland’s art of prolonging life,’ E. Wilson, London.Google Scholar
  10. Kass L.: 1985, Towards a More Natural Science, Free Press, New York.Google Scholar
  11. Le Moigne, J.L.: 1983, La théorie du systéme général, PUF, Paris.Google Scholar
  12. Morin E.: 1977–86, La Méthode (1977), La nature de la nature; 1980, La vie de la vie; 1986, La conaissance de la conaissance),Le Seuil, Paris.Google Scholar
  13. Parson, T.: 1981, ‘Definitions of health and illness in the light of American values and social structures,’ in A. Caplan and H.T. Engelhardt (eds.), Concepts of Health and Disease: An Interdisciplinary Perspsective, Addison-Wesley, London, pp. 57–82.Google Scholar
  14. Rieff, P.: 1979, Freud - The Mind of the Moralist, 3rd edition, Chicago University Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  15. Rilke R. M.: 1945, Letters to a Young Poet, Sidgwick and Jackson, London.Google Scholar
  16. Schadewaldt H.: 1965, Die Apologie der Heilkunst bei den Kirchenvätern, Veröffentlichungen der internationalen Geselleschaft für Geschichte der Pharmazie,Stuttgart, pp. 115–130.Google Scholar
  17. Sheldon, A. et al.: 1970, System and Medical Care, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  18. Sobel, D. and Brody, M.: 1979, Ways of Health, Harcourt Brace Jovanovic, New York.Google Scholar
  19. Spijk, P.V.: 1991, Definition und Beschreibung der Gesundheit, Schriftenreihe der SGGP N. 22, Muri, BE, Switzerland.Google Scholar
  20. Szasz, T. S.: 1978, ‘The concept of mental illness: Explanation or justification,’ in H.T. Engelhardt and S.F. Spicker, eds., Mental Health: Philosophical Perspectives, D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, pp. 235–250.Google Scholar
  21. WHO: 1946a, ‘Actes Officiels de l’Organisation mondiale de la santè,’ no. 1.Google Scholar
  22. WHO: 1946b, ‘Official Records of the World Health Organization,’ no. I.Google Scholar
  23. WHO: 1946c, ‘Actes Officiels de l’Organisation mondiale de la santè,’ no. 2.Google Scholar
  24. WHO: 1946d, ‘Official Records of the World Health Organization,’ no. 2.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Piet Van Spijk
    • 1
  1. 1.LucerneSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations