Power and hope in the clinical encounter: A meditation on vulnerability

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 3 (3):263-273 (2000)
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A specific clinical encounter in which the author was an ethics consultant, after a brief summary, provides the basis for a phenomenological delineation and explication of the key ingredients of such encounters. A brief historical reflection on the myths of Gyges and Aesculapius suggests that several of these ingredients are essential to clinical encounters and help constitute their specific moral aspects and challenges. Understood as an interpersonal relationship framed by critical issues of illness experiences, the clinical encounter makes prominent such constitutive features as dialogue, trust, violence, and especially vulnerability and power. The role of the clinical ethicist is found to be often critical in these encounters, in particular because of the need to help patients and doctors identify, understand, and cope productively with fundamental moral phenomena



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