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Med Humanities doi:10.1136/medhum-2012-010286
  • Original article

Living into the imagined body: how the diagnostic image confronts the lived body

  1. Devan Stahl
  1. Correspondence to Devan Stahl, Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics, St. Louis University, Salus Center, 3545 Lafayette Avenue, 5th Floor, Saint Louis, MO 63104, USA; Devanstahl{at}gmail.com
  • Accepted 18 February 2013
  • Published Online First 13 March 2013

Abstract

In this paper I will show how the medical image, presented to the patient by the physician, participates in medicine's cold culture of abstraction, objectification and mandated normativity. I begin by giving a brief account of the use of anatomical imaging since the Renaissance to show how images have historically functioned in contrast to how they are currently used in medical practice. Next, I examine how contemporary medical imaging techniques participate in a kind of knowledge production that objectifies the human body. Finally, I elucidate how physicians ought to place the medical image within the context of the lived body so as to create a healing relationship with the patient. In all this I hope to show that the medical image, far from a piece of objective data, testifies to the interplay of particular beliefs, practices and doctrines contemporary medicine holds dear. To best treat her patient, the physician must appreciate the influence of these images and appropriately place them within the context of the patient's lived experience.