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WHO ARE WE WHEN WE ARE DOING WHAT WE ARE DOING? THE CASE FOR MINDFUL EMBODIMENT IN ETHICS CASE CONSULTATION

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ABSTRACT

This paper explores the theory and practice of embodied epistemology or mindful embodiment in ethics case consultation. I argue that not only is this epistemology an ethical imperative to safeguard the integrity of this emerging profession, but that it has the potential to improve the quality of ethics consultation (EC). It also has implications for how ethics consultants are trained and how consultation services are organized. My viewpoint is informed by ethnographic research and by my experimental application of mindful embodiment to the development of an ethics consultation service. My argument proceeds in four phases. First I explore the notion of ‘situatedness’ in the bioethics literature, identifying gaps in the field's theories as they apply to EC. I then describe my theoretical approach to embodiment grounded in critical‐interpretive medical anthropology and autoethnography. I use embodiment to refer to a moral epistemology grounded in the body, comprised of the interplay of physical, symbolic, intersubjective and political elements. Third, I describe how mindful embodiment can inform the role of the ethics consultant and the development of effective training techniques, vocabularies and processes for EC. I also discuss the benefits of this orientation, and the potential harms of ignoring the embodied dimensions of EC. My goals are to expose the fallacy of the ‘theory‐practice gap’, to demonstrate how my own EC practice is deeply informed by this theoretical orientation, and to argue for a wider definition of what ‘counts’ as relevant theory for ethics consultation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: McMaster University

Publication date: September 1, 2011

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