04 September 2023

Call for Papers: Special Issue of the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy (JMP) -- Deadline May 15


Call for Papers: Special Issue of the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy (JMP)

Topic: “Hermeneutics and Bioethics – Understanding Relations between Narrative Medicine, Patient Experience and Social Contexts. “

Guest Editors: Geoffrey Dierckxsens (Institute of Philosophy, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague) & Elodie Boublil (University of Paris Est Créteil, UPEC, France)

The idea of narrative medicine has been around for several decades now (see for example Charon 2006, Charon et al. 2016). This is because medicine as a profession is in favor of the idea that different narratives and narrative techniques are useful in medical practice and health care. In fact, as bioethicists, philosophers and health care providers have pointed out, health care does not only include healing physical disease, but also requires for health care providers to listen to the personal narratives of the parties involved (patients and often also relatives).

Personal stories are meaningful in medicine not just in a theoretical sense, as part of the diagnosis of a certain disease or medical condition (e.g. conditions can often be traced back to the life stories of patients as in childhood trauma for example). Narratives can also be part of medical treatment or therapy, as in sessions between patients who share their stories with health care providers (Zahavi and Martiny 2019). For example, an open dialogue between health care providers and patients may help them to better understand the condition they are facing and come to terms with how this feels in their bodies. In this context, the role and nature of empathy in care strategies have also been explored, at the crossroads of phenomenology, the philosophy of cognition and embodiment, and ethics.

More specifically, narrative medicine as a concept has been particularly embraced by scholars in the field of phenomenological bioethics, which has emerged fairly recently and has already been established to some extent (see for example, Svenaeus 2017, 2022, Ferrarello 2021).

Generally speaking, phenomenological bioethics advances the idea that medical practice requires a focus on patient experience, their personal perspective and how they can identify with their embodied and/or medical condition. Phenomenological bioethics promotes the idea that an emphasis on personal experience, as in life stories, help understanding disease in the sense described above. It also may be used as a basis for interview techniques and therapeutic sessions, in particular in psychiatry and nursing, that are developed to raise awareness of medical conditions (e.g. diabetes) and help them better accept those (Zahavi and Martiny 2019). Phenomenological bioethics finds its origin in phenomenology, a philosophical method developed in the 20th century that studies aspects of consciousness, including what it means for a subject to experience their own embodied condition. The key role of intersubjectivity and empathy in phenomenological investigations have contributed to renew the philosophical examination of the clinical encounter.

Although both narrative medicine and phenomenological bioethics have been developed to a great extent in recent years, a neighboring field of phenomenology – hermeneutics – is often overlooked in discussions about narrative medicine, empathy (broadly construed as a form of interpersonal understanding), or the relevance of patient experience. Like phenomenology, hermeneutics was developed in the 20th century as a philosophical field of study that addresses consciousness, and how it works. Yet, whereas the relation between phenomenology and bioethics is the subject of several books and edited collections (e.g. Svenaeus 2017), including a recent special issue of the Journal of Philosophy of Medicine, (Vol 48/2, 2023), our special issue would specifically focus on hermeneutics as a method, a philosophical tradition, and a practice in the field of medicine and medical humanities. Whereas phenomenological bioethics has done important work in demonstrating the relevance of the qualitative patient experience (in response to increased objectivization in medicine), hermeneutics may offer a different perspective on patient experience by drawing attention to the impact of social narratives. These have become increasingly significant in medicine today, as social stigma impacts medicine and health care in several different ways (e.g. blame narratives in pandemics, beauty ideals in cosmetic surgery, or social ideals of enhancement techniques).

Indeed, whereas phenomenology mainly focuses on the first-person perspective and embodiment, hermeneutics places the human subject within larger narratives such as stories of social groups, social values, cultural norms, religious beliefs or political ideas (to name a few).

The study and interpretation of these and similar narratives enables a better understanding of human consciousness, according to hermeneutics. Moreover, social narratives have a direct impact on medical practice and how it is perceived as well as on the perception of potential biases and hermeneutic injustice in care relationships.

The contemporary emphasis on the biopsychosocial model in healthcare stresses the value of a holistic approach of the human being, as a relational being whose health should be understood both from a biological perspective and a socio-cultural one. In this sense, the philosophical and clinical contribution of hermeneutics has been underestimated. For that reason, a special issue on hermeneutics and bioethics would be timely and relevant. It would contribute to the field of bioethics and the philosophy of medicine.

Potential topics may include but are not limited to:

- Social Narratives and Medicine

- Ideology and Health Care

- Medical Enhancement

- Hermeneutical thinkers (Jaspers, Heidegger, Gadamer, Ricoeur) and bioethics.

- Politics and health care

- Cultural bias and hermeneutic injustice in medicine

- The Hermeneutics of the Clinical Encounter

- Empathy and care strategies from the perspective of hermeneutics

- Dialogue and care

Papers should be sent to the guest editors at the following e-mail: jmp.hermeneutics@gmail.com

Deadline for submission: May 15, 2024

Each article, together with the issue as a whole, will be subject to the usual, double-blinded peer review process, and significant revisions may be required to any article prior to its acceptance for publication. The Editorial Board reserves the right to reject any article.

Length of the paper: approximately 7000 words