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Alessandra Colaianni – „Necessary Inhumanity“: How doctors detach

et al° proudly invites to a talk and discussion with Alessandra Colaianni at the wonderful art gallery Sprechsaal. It is part of Sprechsaal’s terrific exhibition on horror „Monsters. Eine Ausstellung zur Vermessung des Horrors“

„One of the first things I did in my official capacity as a medical student was to desecrate a corpse in Anatomy Lab. Not only was I supposed to learn from this, I was also, on some level, supposed to enjoy it. Physicians are more at ease in the presence of pain, sickness, morbidity, and death than are their citizen counterparts; the medical profession requires unflappability in the face of things that others would consider disgusting, horrific, or otherwise overwhelming. This is often referred to as clinical detachment, or “detached concern” – showing empathy and caring, but not so much that one „burns out“ emotionally. However, the process of detachment is, definitionally, a process of becoming less humane. How do doctors learn to detach without losing our ability to be horrified? Does detachment make doctors more likely to commit injustices against their patients? Are we being asked to tap into the small part of our souls that enjoys watching others suffer?“

Alessandra Colaianni

Alessandra Colaianni is a medical student at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a Masters‘ candidate in History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge. Her research interests include moral vulnerabilities among medical professionals, the history of medical education in the US, medicine during the Holocaust, and medical humanities.

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