Biomedical Humanities – Place and Purpose

In this, our fifth CCH seminar in our series at the WHO Collaborative Centre on Culture and Health‘Biomedical Humanities, Place and Purpose’ we heardfrom Professor Sarah Atkinson, Professor of Geography and Medical Humanities, Durham University; Professor Giovanni Boniolo, University of Ferrara; and Professor Havi Carel, Professor of Philosophy, University of Bristol.  The seminar looked at the extent to which medical humanities illuminates experiences of illness and wellness from different perspectives, it explored experiences of engaging outside of academia, and how narrative approaches might be used in clinical decision making.

Sarah explored how the experiences of living with multiple conditions of ill-health and/or disability offer a critical encounter with medicine’s dominant perspectives on hope. During her short presentation Sarah illustrated the value of hopelessness as an analytical construct in directing attention away from only the internal cognitive and affective disposition of the individual in understanding the daily experiences of living with chronic ill-health

Giovanni examined the role of biomedical humanities to consider how a humanistic perspective can help shape ethical and existential choices in severe clinical decisions, especially in the oncological field. In so doing, he explored how genetic analysis in the laboratory intersects with a patient’s physical situation and broader socio-cultural circumstances, and he remarked on the relevance of the tools offered by the philosophical tradition to cope with the troubles of life due to pathological situations.

Havi Carel talked about the Life of Breath project, which aims to explore breathing and breathlessness at the interface between arts, humanities and medical practice. Particular focus was placed on the challenges and opportunities of multidisciplinary working, and engagement with health practitioners.