The conference “Preparing for Physicians. The ambivalences of empowerment” will take place at the University of Siegen (Germany) from June 26-28, 2019.
Healing is a cooperative practice that involves multiple agents and requires negotiations of different needs and potentials. These negotiations are usually based on asymmetrical relations between healer and patient. Without specific expertise, skills, and knowledge of healing, there would be no need for consultation, and often patients are looking exactly for such an asymmetric relation to put themselves in the hands of an authority they can trust. Nevertheless, this asymmetry has often been criticized, especially in the realm of modern biomedicine and psychology, and especially in the context of chronic and rare diseases. Professional dominance (Freidson 1970) and a paternalistic imbalance in healer-patient relationships have thus led to an increasing claim for shared decision making and informed consent in order to empower the patient vis-à-vis her or his healer. The aim is to develop therapies and forms of interaction that explicitly seek to re-balance the relationship by taking into account the patients’ knowledge (as e.g. in many psychological therapies), or even trying to turn the asymmetric healer-patient relationship around and calling for full responsibility of patients themselves (e.g. in many esoteric therapies).