Should art matter to clinicians?

Presentation at Difficult Lung Disease (DLD) annual meeting, University of Sheffield, 2015
DLD 2015

What is at the heart of this relationship between arts and healthcare?
How can the arts be of value to healthcare?
In what context can the arts be applied, and how?
Why should the arts matter to those providing healthcare?

The human body: a problem?

The human body
At once foreign and familiar
The body as material and emotion, as mechanical and sensorial
Inside and outside
Too often anatomised, pathologised and medicalised in the absence of authentic corporeal experience

Bodies are essentially socially, culturally and politically conditioned,
and influenced by what postmodernist analysts see in the body; a space for the inscription of social and political power.

At the point of contact with a patient’s body, how are clinicians to navigate the personal, societal, ethical and spiritual concepts of health and mortality relating to its corporeality?
Too often clinicians are accused of treating the human body as the object of disease diagnosis and not so much a narrator of illness experience, which draws attention to the issues of body autonomy and ownership.
By and large, the patient body is consistent throughout all healthcare practices, where the diagnosis and treatment of an examined lesion, more than a person embodying pain, is aloof from the patients’ own narrative of their embodied experience.

The arts: a solution?

I am an advocate for the role visual arts can play in providing much richer, critical and creative perspectives on the human body in health, illness and death, than can be achieved by quantitative measures, medical diagnoses’ and bioethical regulations inherent to clinical practice.

The visual arts can help shape our thinking, understanding and experiences of ours and others bodies by virtue of offering access to visual, intellectual and emotional representations that speak about identity and embodiment both inside and OUTSIDE the medical sphere.