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Durham University

Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details

Atkinson, S, Macnaughton, J, Saunders, C & Evans, M Cool Intimacies of Care for Contemporary Clinical Practice. The Lancet. 2010;376:1732-1733.

Author(s) from Durham


The practices of medicine across history and culture illuminate the centrality of the physical intimacy of touch in the expression of the healer's care. Yet much of modern western medicine diminishes the value of intimacy in the expertise of the clinician, and marginalises emotionally inflected practices into categories of care that are separate from the expertise of the clinician. Can such a divide between the objectifying clinical gaze and the intimacy of emotional care be made without losing something vital to the therapeutic processes of healing? To reinvigorate debate about the place of intimacy for contemporary clinical practice, we look back to medieval literature, which illuminates two traditions in understanding intimacy and its interconnections with healing. One of these traditions has become dominant in modern health care; we call for a re-engagement with the second in contemporary clinical practice.