Over one hundred years after Max Weber delivered his lecture “Science as a Vocation,” his description of the work of the physician in a disenchanted world still resonates. As a chronically ill patient who interacts with physicians frequently, I struggle with reconciling my understanding of my ill body with how my physician makes sense of my illness. My diagnosis created an existential crisis that caused me to search for meaning in my embodied experience, but I soon learned there is little room for such a search within modern biomedicine. Instead, I turned to fine art to help me make sense of my ill body and its purpose in my life. With the aid of my printmaker sister, Darian Goldin Stahl, I have transformed the magnetic resonance images of my body into works of art, which help to re-enchant my body and give purpose to my illness.
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Spiritual suffering has not completely escaped scientific attempts at description and control—it can now also be “measured” in medicine using tools such as the Brief RCOPE, which assess patients’ religious coping skills.
For a thorough history of the changes undergone within medicine as a profession, particularly in American society, see Paul Starr . Starr explores how physicians have consolidated their power, which has helped their profession to be seen as more “scientific” in the modern age.
Here, I use “re-enchant” differently than Weber. Mine is a more creative re-enchantment, which seeks to make whole what modern medicine has fragmented. For more, see my chapter in the volume Imaging and Imagining Illness .
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Stahl, D. Patient reflections on the disenchantment of techno-medicine. Theor Med Bioeth 39, 499–513 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11017-018-9471-y
- Fine art
- Patient experience