Bioethics Blogs

Emptiness and the Medical Encounter: The interior spatial requirements of encountering by Suzanne Cochrane

Thirty spokes converge in a hub
There where there is nothing,
That is the chariot’s usefulness.
Fashion earth to make a vase from it,
There where there is nothing,
That is the vessel’s usefulness

– Lao Zi

Emptiness…makes it possible to move about freely and succeeds in ‘letting pass’. The important thing is not to determine ‘what’ passes – assuming one even could – but to conserve its energy, as physics says, that is, preserve its activity.

– François Jullien

If your body [xing 形] is not correct,
The inner power will not come.
If at the centre you are not tranquil,
Your mind will not be ordered.
Correct [zheng正] your body and gather in the power,
Then it will pour in of its own accord.

– Guanzi jiao zheng, Ch.6

The medical encounter, and perhaps particularly the Chinese medical encounter, requires practitioners to place themselves in relation to the person with whom they are working, to achieve an intra-active entangled relation to the other. And we need to do so in a way that can enfold [4] knowledge of the patient-other into our frames of meaning, those diagnostic resources we hold for just this purpose to facilitate therapeutic intervention(s) and guide us through the conundrum of dis-ease, navigating the perturbations that afflict the patient-other. The messy, sticky, distracted business of encountering disorder can engender a multiplicity of resistances and vulnerabilities, which can both allow and impede the clear sight of what ‘really’ is ‘wrong’ and what might be fixed/transformed by the tools available.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.