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Healthcare 2017, 5(3), 58;

Force and Presence in the World of Medicine

Plymouth Peninsula School of Medicine, University of Plymouth, Plymouth PL6 8BT, UK
Academic Editors: Ian Walsh and Helen Noble
Received: 25 July 2017 / Revised: 31 August 2017 / Accepted: 3 September 2017 / Published: 13 September 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Humanities and Healthcare)
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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’, reducing 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. View Full-Text
Keywords: force; presence; medical metaphors force; presence; medical metaphors
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Bleakley, A. Force and Presence in the World of Medicine. Healthcare 2017, 5, 58.

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