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Durham University



Publication details for Professor Martyn Evans

Evans, H M (2012). Wonder and the clinical encounter. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 33(2): 123-136.

Author(s) from Durham


In terms of intervening in embodied experience, medical treatment is wonder-full in its ambition and its metaphysical presumption; yet, wonder’s role in clinical medicine has received little philosophical attention. In this paper, I propose, to doctors and others in routine clinical life, the value of an openness to wonder and to the sense of wonder. Key to this is the identity of the central ethical challenges facing most clinicians, which is not the high-tech drama of the popular conceptions of medical ethics but, rather, the routine of patients’ undramatic but unremitting demands for the clinician’s time and respectful attention. Wonder (conceived as an intense and transfiguring attentiveness) is a ubiquitous ethical source, an alternative to the more familiar respect for rational autonomy, a source of renewal galvanizing diagnostic imagination, and a timely recalling of the embodied agency of both patient and clinician.