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Jane Macnaughton – ‘It felt like she was coming out of my throat’: the perception of touch in clinical practice

Humanities and Arts Research Centre (HARC)

Event Date: 3 March 2010

Jane Macnaughton (Durham): ‘It felt like she was coming out of my throat’: the perception of touch in clinical practice

Part of our Medical Knowledge and Human Experience strand. It is extraordinary to reflect on the fact that in clinical practice is it possible for one stranger to touch another in a very intimate but wholly acceptable way. This kind of clinical interaction has had a lot of attention from an ethical point of view, mainly when that acceptability is breached in some way. This paper will instead explore the phenomenon of clinical touch in an interdisciplinary way: from the perspective of a clinician who is interested in phenomenology but also in empirical work exploring the intimacy of caring physically for the body, and how that feels for the person both physically and psychologically. Thinking of the perception of both doctor and patient, I will explore the questions, what is clinical touch for; who (or what) is touching who (or what); and what does touch mean?

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