Suffering and interpersonal meaning: commentary

J Clin Ethics. Summer 1991;2(2):103-7.


I would like to suggest that to describe suffering as a psychological phenomenon is still too general. It leaves the door open to the belief that suffering is an individual phenomenon, experienced because of dynamics arising out of the individual psyche as the pain arises out of the individual body. Instead of describing suffering as a psychological phenomenon, we should describe it as an interpersonal, even communal phenomenon.... If the task of reestablishing, continuing, and creating interpersonal meaning within the context of suffering is accepted, the problem often arises concerning how the health professional can accomplish this task with the patient under the extraordinary circumstances that pain and illness, as well as the health-care environment, provide. Beyond sensitive and thoughtful dialogue, we may have to return to a sense of ceremony within health care, especially since the rationalistic naiveté of nineteenth-century positivism did so much to encourage the belief that the best health care is the one that does things efficiently and "unceremoniously"....

MeSH terms

  • Altruism
  • Beneficence
  • Empathy
  • Ethics*
  • Freedom
  • Health Personnel
  • Human Characteristics
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Moral Obligations
  • Motivation
  • Pain*
  • Patient Care*
  • Patients
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Social Responsibility
  • Social Values
  • Stress, Psychological*