'I am well, apart from the fact that I have cancer’: Explaining wellbeing within illness
Carel, H. (2009) 'I am well, apart from the fact that I have cancer’: Explaining wellbeing within illness. In: Bortolloti, L., ed. (2009) Philosophy and Happiness. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 82-99. ISBN 9780230224292
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Despite the near-universal nature of illness, not enough philosophical work has been done to explore the effects of ill health on human wellbeing. Other disciplines such as nursing, healthcare sciences and sociology of health, have examined the relationship between illness and wellbeing extensively. In this paper I draw on this literature to make some philosophical claims about the relationship between illness and wellbeing. The paper draws on empirical work in healthcare and social science literature to advance the following claim: although at first blush health seems a sine qua non for wellbeing, empirical evidence shows that it is neither necessary nor sufficient. I explain this finding by developing the notion of wellbeing within illness, using literature that demonstrates that illness can, in fact, serve as a catalyst for wellbeing. The paper is grounded in a phenomenological approach, which emphasises the embodied nature of human agency and provides a methodology that enables access to the first-person experience of illness. After introducing this approach, I discuss changes caused by illness and how these can be understood using a phenomenological perspective. I discuss the ways in which a phenomenological methodology has been applied in qualitative research and raise problems with this methodology. I then offer an account of the positive aspects of illness. The paper ends with some suggestions on how these insights could be applied to healthcare work.
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