Force and Presence in the World of Medicine

Alan Bleakley
2017 Healthcare  
Medicine can not only be read with a poetic imagination, but also configured as a poetic practice, moving beyond the instrumental. The poet Wallace Stevens made a distinction between 'Force' and 'Presence'-the former can be read as combative, the latter as pacific. Modern medicine has been shaped historically by the combative metaphor of a 'war against disease', turning medicine into a quasi-militaristic culture fond of hierarchy. This is supplemented by the metaphor of the 'body as machine',
more » ... ducing the complex and unpredictable body to a linear, if complicated, apparatus. The two metaphors align medicine with the modern industrial-military complex that is masculine, heroic, and controlling in character. In an era in which medicine is feminising and expected to be patient-centred, collaborative (inter-professional) and transparent to the public as a democratic gesture, the industrial-military metaphor complex should no longer be shaping medicine-yet its influence is still keenly felt, especially in surgery. This continuing dominance of Force over Presence matters because it is a style running counter to the collaborative, team-based medicine needed for high levels of patient safety. Medicine will authentically democratise only as new, pacific shaping metaphors emerge: those of 'Presence', such as 'hospitality'. Hospitals can once again become places of hospitality.
doi:10.3390/healthcare5030058 pmid:32961645 fatcat:73gzw534pfgv7n3r26eksh2pde