The experience of suffering from severe diseases can affect a person’s future life. It can force patients to overestimate their life goals and behavior. Phenomenology is an approach that evaluates any experience from the point of view of the individual that encounters it. Its use in medicine can be beneficial for understanding patients and creating comfortable conditions for them to recover. Despite the fact that illnesses are usually a negative experience, it can become a source of motivation to live.
Although each person is unique and perceives situations in their own way, the illness experience can be similar for everyone. Leo Tolstoy (1886), in the book The death of Ivan Ilych describes suffering the illness by the protagonist and reflects his feelings and thoughts. Seemingly a minor hit leads to the incurable disease of the protagonist, and he dies slowly. In this way, the writer raises questions about the meaning of life and its finiteness, and readers can think about what such an experience could mean to them.
The patient’s recovery largely depends on external and internal circumstances. Internal peace, a favorable setting, and support create a healing environment. It can improve the patient’s condition and facilitate recovery (Gupta, Choudhary, & Humaira, 2019). Ivan Ilych is not calm while suffering from the illness – he does not feel support, but only pretense (Tolstoy, 1886). The behavior of the family and his own helplessness annoy the protagonist. For these reasons, his disease does not pass but only worsens. As an element of the story’s plot, the lack of a healing environment allows readers to learn about the challenging experience of dying in the first person.
Phenomenology of illness and disease is their understanding based on first-person experiences. The death of Ivan Ilych gives a clear idea of the thoughts and emotions of an unhealthy person. The story is valuable since readers understand how to evaluate life. Ivan Ilych considering his experience comes to the realization that everything that pleased him, his achievements do not matter (Tolstoy, 1886). Such a reflection also draws attention to the fact that all people die and can find their lives insignificant. Only in the end, Ivan has the idea that it would be right to take care of the family (Tolstoy, 1886). For this reason, the fact that he will soon die no longer upsets him, and he thinks that he will free his family.
Medical staff can take a phenomenological approach to understand patients. According to Kottow (2017), there is widespread dehumanization in the field of medicine, which negatively affects the provision of health services. Neglect of the patient’s feelings can cause complaints, more prolonged and expensive treatment, as well as other negative consequences. In this case, phenomenology is an essential element for the return of humane medicine (Kottow, 2017). It contributes to the establishment of a healing environment and quality patient care. The establishment of mutual understanding makes it clear to the patient that the staff intends to help and does not neglect the situation. Moreover, the patients are more actively involved in their own treatment if they feel confident in doctors and nurses.
In my own experience, there were no severe illnesses that would make me so seriously rethink life. Once, doctors expressed suspicion of a dangerous disease, and it took additional time to deal with the situation. At this time, the main thing that bothered me was that I could no longer create new pleasant memories with my family and friends. Old moments that seem ordinary suddenly became incredibly valuable. Perhaps sometimes people need such suffering to learn to appreciate what they have. Although pieces like The Death of Ivan Ilych may encourage specific thoughts about the limited time and death, their effect is often not enough to change a life. Such reflections indicate a more philosophical direction of phenomenology. However, its use in practical medicine makes it possible to understand the fears of the patient and what actions, in addition to immediate treatment, must be taken by the staff.
In conclusion, it is significant to note that in the treatment of patients, not only a practical approach is crucial, but also a philosophical one. In addition to therapy, medical personnel also take care of the conditions in which the patient resides, creating a healing environment. It promotes more effective and rapid treatment, quality healthcare services. To make such an environment, both external conditions and the internal state of patients are essential. For their peace of mind, it is necessary to establish a trusting relationship with doctors and nurses. Medical staff can gain trust using a phenomenological approach – assessing experience from a first-person point of view. Tolstoy’s story The Death of Ivan Ilych can serve as an example of the reflection of an unhealthy person in his life. Such experiences contribute to a reassessment of values and principles. Understanding the limitation of time and the importance of life achieved through phenomenology is also vital for human happiness.
Gupta, S., Choudhary, S., & Humaira, R. (2019). Elements of healing environment in healthcare centre. International Journal of Research in Engineering, Science and Management, 2(10), 667-669.
Kottow, M. (2017). Some thoughts on phenomenology and medicine. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 20(3), 405-412.
Tolstoy, L. N. (1886). The death of Ivan Ilych. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library.