The painter and the cameraman: Boundaries in clinical relationships

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 23 (3):219-232 (2002)

Abstract
The issue of boundaries in clinician–patientencounters is considered through narrativeanalysis of four clinical stories in whichboundaries crossings are a self-conscioustopic. One story is by a physician as patient,two are by physicians, and one is by apalliative care nurse. The stories arediscussed using Walter Benjamin''s distinctionbetween the painter, who maintains distance andsees the whole, and the cameraman, who usestechnology to penetrate realities and thenreassembles fragments. The essay argues thatdistance and closeness are ethical issues thatconstitute the possibility of clinicalencounters but the encounter also changes theclinician''s sense of boundaries. The relevantethics of boundary decisions in most clinicalencounters are not procedural ethics but anethics of self-creation: in orienting toboundaries as doctors do, they createthemselves in their relations to others.
Keywords boundaries  clinical encounters  clinical ethics  narrative analysis  physician–patient communication
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Reprint years 2004
DOI 10.1023/A:1020851509738
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