Healing activities construct the objects of therapy: Medicine's way of seeking truth, organizing forms of reality, regulating patients' bodies, illness and culture?

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Abstract

In this paper, I will explore the concept that healing activities shape the objects of therapy and seek to construct those objects through therapeutic activities. Objects of therapy are the persons, patients, human bodies, diseases, physiological processes and personal suffering—that which clinical medicine constructs through its distinctive formative processes, practices and knowledge. The rationale for choice of philosophical sources namely, Cassirer, Foucault, the anthropological perspective of Good and the sociological account of Frank will be discussed. The claim articulated by Good will be examined and its relationship to culture, illness, medical knowledge, practice, truth, and science. I then focus on Frank's concepts of the patient and the body and how medical knowledge and practices affects it. The concept that the medicalization of the illness narrative silences the patient's voice requiring an ethic of listening will be emphasized, described and further supported by Charon's (2006, Narrative medicine: Honoring the stories of illness. New York, NY: Oxford University Press) and Cassell's (2015, The nature of suffering and the goals of medicine. New York, NY: Oxford University Press) thoughts on narrative of illness in clinical medicine. My position concludes that healing activities construct the objects of therapy: as the medical culture's way of seeking truth; as medicine's way of mediating and organizing forms of reality through culture and symbolic forms; and, as medicine's way of entering the body and constructing the disease. Lastly, I suggest that in spite of the remarkable progress in the control of disease, the failure to address the interpretation of illness meanings is a fundamental flaw in the work of “doctoring.” The experience and meanings of illness are at the centre of clinical practice and is a moral, political, ethical and professional obligation. The person is a cultural construct, a complex and culturally shaped way of experiencing self and other, and cultural “work” is required to constitute the person who is the object of medical attention and it also necessitates the ethic of listening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12236
JournalNursing Philosophy
Volume20
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Research and Theory
  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects

Keywords

  • Arthur Frank
  • Byron Good
  • Ernst Cassirer
  • Foucault
  • Narrative Ethics
  • Rita Charon

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