Compassion, Necessity, and the Pharmakon of the Health Humanities
Keywords:Health humanities, compassion, empathy
Health humanities is an emergent interdisciplinary field drawing on existing traditions of using resources from the arts and humanities in the education of health professionals. Cultivation of compassion is often cited, though not without some debate, as a fit goal for the health humanities. In this paper, I undertake a critical reappraisal of the presumed link between health humanities and compassion. Firstly, I propose a model of the health humanities that takes up Derrida’s figure of the pharmakon, as polyvalent medicine or poison (among other meanings). Unlike Derrida, however, I treat the pharmakon as a substance, even when referring to arts and humanities. I then offer examples of negative effects of the pharmakon that both attest to its potency and unsettle comfortable assumptions that it is necessarily benign. Finally, I take up themes from Simone Weil’s reading of the Iliad to propose that necessity may be a useful alternative, or addition, to the ways we think about the goals of the health humanities
Auden, W.H. (2016). In memory of W.B. Yeats. Retrieved from https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/memory-w-b-yeats
Barnhart, R. (Ed.). (2006). Chambers dictionary of etymology. New York, NY: Chambers.
BBC. (2014). Profile: Radovan Karadzic. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-19960285
Bradshaw, A. (2009). Measuring nursing care and compassion: The McDonaldised nurse? Journal of Medical Ethics, 35, 465-468. doi:10.1136/jme.2008.028530
Cole, T.R., Carlin, N.S., & Carson, R.A. (2015). Medical humanities: An introduction. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Crawford, P., Brown, B., Baker, C., Tischler, V., & Abrams, B. (2015). Health humanities. Basinstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Damasio, A. (2012). Self comes to mind: Constructing the conscious brain. New York, NY: Vintage.
Derrida, J. (1981). Dissemination (Trans. B. Johnson). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Dylan, B. (1979). Slow train. Bob Dylan official website. Retrieved from http://bobdylan.com/songs/slow-train/
Faust, H.S. (2009). Kindness, not compassion, in healthcare. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 18(3), 287-299. DOI: 10.1017/S0963180109090458
Francis, R. (2013). Report of the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust public inquiry. Retrieved from http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20150407084003/http://www.midstaffspublicinquiry.com/report
Gadamer, H.G. (1960/2004). Truth and method. New York, NY: Continuum.
Genova, L. (2009). Still Alice. New York, NY: Gallery Books.
Guardian. (2016). What is meldonium and why did Maria Sharapova take it? Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/mar/08/meldonium-maria-sharapova-failed-drugs-test
Haykel, B., & Creswell, R. (2015). Battle lines: Want to understand the jihadis? Read their poetry. The New Yorker, June 8, 2015, retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/06/08/battle-lines-jihad-creswell-and-haykel
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia [ICTY]. (2016). Statement of the Office of the Prosecutor on the Conviction of Radovan Karadži?. Retrieved from http://www.icty.org/en/press/statement-of-the-office-of-the-prosecutor-on-the-conviction-of-radovan-karadzic
Jones, T., Wear, D., & Friedman, L.D. (2014). The why, the what, and the how of the medical/health humanities. In T. Jones, D. Wear, & L.D. Friedman (Eds.), Health humanities reader (pp. 1-6). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Kearney, R. (2011). What is diacritical hermeneutics? Journal of Applied Hermeneutics, Article 1, 1-14.
Krznaric, R. (2015). Empathy: Why it matters, and how to get it. New York, NY: Perigree.
McCaffrey, G., & McConnell, S. (2015). Compassion: A critical review of peer-reviewed nursing literature. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 24(19-20), 3006-3015. doi: 10.1111/jocn.12924
Neumann, K. (2000). Shifting memories: The Nazi past in the new Germany. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.
Steiner, G. (1989). Real presences. London, UK: Faber.
Surdukowski, J. (2005). Is poetry a war crime? Reckoning for Radovan Karadzic the poet-warrior. Michigan Journal of International Law, 26, 673-699.
Un, K. (2008). What? 108 Zen poems. Berkeley, CA: Parallax.
Vera, M. (2012). The 10 rights of drug administration. Retrieved from http://nurseslabs.com/10-rs-rights-of-drug-administration/
Weil, S. (2002). Gravity and grace. Florence, KY : Routledge.
Weil, S. (2005). Simone Weil: An anthology. (S. Miles, ed.). London, UK: Penguin.
Yeats, W.B. (1982). Collected poems. London, UK: MacMillan.
LicenseAuthors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).