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Medicine, the body and an invitation to wonder
  1. H M Evans
  1. Correspondence to Professor H M Evans Trevelyan College, Elvet Hill Road, Durham DH1 3LN, UK; h.m.evans{at}

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There is, I think, a resonance between being a patient and having a greater sense of wonder at things in the world around us: a sense of wonder at things that become, briefly and intermittently, intensely and newly present. As with experiences of art, or of humour, or of love, or of strong ethical motivation, in experiences of wonder it seems to me that we live more intensely. And if it is a good thing to live, then perhaps living intensely may, while it lasts, be an intensely good thing. In this paper, I will try to reflect on this resonance within my personal experience, within the context of a number of related undertakings. These are as follows:

  • to argue that there is something enduringly and inescapably wonderful about the challenge facing the clinical medical practitioner;

  • to disclose something personal about myself as a patient within primary care;

  • to recognise the wonder of our embodied state;

  • to review the importance of a sense of wonder for doctor and patient alike;

  • to argue for a reassessment—and a reassignment—of the moral centre of gravity of clinical medicine;

  • to consider whether an ethics grounded upon wonder is compatible with virtue ethics

  • to explore aspects of wonder and suggest future research;

  • to sketch out how a sense of wonder at our mortality—our ‘finitude’—helps us all in acknowledging and responding to ‘the lives of others’.

These undertakings cumulatively constitute the ‘invitation to wonder’ that I would like to issue.

To argue that there is something enduringly and inescapably wonderful about the challenge facing the clinical medical practitioner

In medical practice, where the existential as well as the material grounds of patients’ experiences of health, illness, disability and mortality are equally prominent and equally precious, clinicians have a characteristic form of contact with their patients that, to me as a layman and as a patient, seems to be both an unparalleled richness and a …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.