The paradoxical body: A glimpse of a deeper truth through relatives’ stories

Nursing Ethics 26 (6):1611-1622 (2019)

Abstract
Background: People with progressive cancer experience that their bodies change due to disease and/or treatment. The body is integral to the unity of the human being, a unity that must be perceived as whole if dignity shall be experienced. Relatives are in touch with the suffering bodies of their dear ones, physically, socially, mentally, and existentially, and thus the relatives’ experiences of the bodies of their dear ones might yield insight into the concept of dignity. Aim: The aim of this study is to explore relatives’ experiences of the patients’ bodily changes from a perspective of dignity. Research design and method: A total of 12 relatives from a hospice in Norway were interviewed. Gadamer’s ontological hermeneutics inspired the interpretation. Ethical considerations: The principles of voluntariness, confidentiality, withdrawal, and anonymity were respected during the whole research process. The Norwegian Social Science Data Services approved the study. Results and conclusion: The conversations about the body were conversations about ambivalent or paradoxical matters that shed light on the concept of dignity. The results show that the relatives got in touch with elements that otherwise would have remained tacit and unspoken, and which gave glimpses of a deeper truth, which might reveal the core of dignity. Furthermore, the relatives’ confirmation of the ambivalence might be understood as a strong ethical obligation to treat the other with dignity. The confirmation may also reveal the relatives’ unselfish love of the other, which can be understood as the core of ethics and ethos. Finally, the results reveal the relatives’ limited insight into their dear ones’ bodily changes, and we discuss the challenges of truly seeing the other. Body knowledge and the relationship between body and dignity as phenomena cannot be ignored and needs more attention and articulation in clinical nursing practice and in nursing research.
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DOI 10.1177/0969733018768660
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Truth and Method.H. G. Gadamer - 1975 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 36 (4):487-490.
Phenomenology of Perception.Aron Gurwitsch, M. Merleau-Ponty & Colin Smith - 1964 - Philosophical Review 73 (3):417.
The Visible and the Invisible.B. Falk - 1970 - Philosophical Quarterly 20 (80):278-279.

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