In “Health As An Objective Value” (The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 20:499-511,1995), Dr. James Lennox writes:
Human life requires that an amazing number of activities be con- tinuously and successfully performed and coordinated, over many of which we have no conscious control. These activities are located at every level of ontological resolution one wishes to con- sider, from the electron transfers that serve processes at the molec- ular level to the complex shock reaction to serious trauma. While these activities ultimately derive the energy that drives them from various external sources, they are not merely chemical reactions or mechanical responses to those sources. Uniquely, organisms actively and selectively extract certain materials from the environment and convert them, through complexly coordinated biochemical pro- cesses, into the structures and forms of energy required to main- tain themselves. Our continued existence as organisms depends
on our success at doing so.
The concept of health, I shall argue, identifies the state of successful performance of these functions.
Interesting philosophic essay. The abstract says:
Variants on two approaches to the concept of health have domi- nated the philosophy of medicine, here referred to as ‘reductionist’ and ‘rela- tivisf. These two approaches share the basic assumption that the concept of health cannot be both based on an empirical biological foundation and be evalua- tive, and thus adopt either the view that it is ‘objective’ or evaluative. It is here argued that there are a subset of value concepts that are formed in recognition of certain fundamental facts about living organisms, among which is the concept of health. These are not yet moral concepts, but they are ‘normative’ or ‘evaluative’. The view is defended that health, so understood, is a fundamental concept in the process of medical diagnosis and treatment.