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Prominent philosophers in medicine to debate at UB conference Thursday

Two of the nation’s most prominent philosophers in medicine will present their divergent views on health, disease and grieving in a conference starting Thursday at the University at Buffalo North Campus in Amherst.

The conference is free and open to the public.

Scheduled to appear are Jerome C. Wakefield of New York University’s Silver School of Social Work and Department of Psychiatry, and Christopher Boorse, professor of philosophy at the University of Delaware. They will discuss big-picture views of the theory of disease at 1:30 p.m. Friday and debate grief and pathology issues at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

Boorse is considered a naturalist who defines disease broadly to include any absence of health or abnormal function that compromises survival or reproduction. Wakefield contends that a disease implies dysfunction, but must also cause harm to the individual.

For their second appearance, Boorse and Wakefield will debate whether the grieving process is a pathology or a normal function.

Boorse sees grief as a wound. Wakefield believes that normal grief, like after the death of a loved one, is a proper healing mechanism, a view contrary to the American Psychiatric Association. In 2013, the association controversially dropped the bereavement exclusion from depressionlike symptoms that sometimes accompany grief.

Talks from other guests at the conference, which will provide breakfast and lunch, include such subjects as abortion and defining death for the purpose of organ procurement.

The conference is presented annually by Plato’s Academy, North Tonawanda Campus.