Thursday, November 5, 2009

Embodied Experience

"What happens when my body breaks down happens not just to that body but also to my life, which is lived in that body. When the body breaks down, so does the life. Even when medicine can fix the body, that doesn't always put the life back together again."
Arthur Frank
In health care, the primary focus of care is to diagnose and treat disease, ameliorate pain and suffering, and to champion 'recovery' as the ideal ending of illness. This is all really good and necessary stuff - but is it all there is? I don't think so. The medical narrative that dominates and drives clinical decision making around patient care is limited. It reduces a life to the biological/physiological functioning of body parts - something which can be measured, controlled and fixed if there is a problem. It is a storyline that focuses on the parts that have broken down, not about the whole, which is living the breakdown.
It is the 'whole' that is often considered last, if at all, in the busy world of managed care. To recognize the 'whole' takes more time. Understanding a patient's embodied experience of their health and illness requires a different kind of dialogue and a different level of engagment. It requires us to step into unfamiliar space and allow a rich and nuanced narrative to emerge that gives voice to an experience medicine cannot describe.

1 comment:

  1. I think your question about how we experience our health is a profound one and central to understanding the 'whole' person