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Rosalie Hudson

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date: 01 July 2022

Spirituality is not an optional extra in a healthcare system that generally describes itself as holistic. Along with the physical, the patient’s need for psychological, spiritual, and emotional care form a quadrilateral generally accepted by healthcare professionals. This amalgam of needs is felt and addressed by persons in their unique life narrative; personhood is thus the pivotal point for discussing spirituality. Personhood in this discussion is distinguished from other person-like terms, such as personality, personal identity, personalism, and individual. It will be argued, first, that personhood can be reduced to ‘thinghood’, particularly when a person is reduced to component parts, rather than treated as an indivisible unity of body, mind, and spirit. Questions are also raised about patients as persons, and whether or not a human being can be a non-person. In the second section, the focus is on ‘Annie’ and her ontological plea. In a culture of autonomous individual rights where rationality is prized above other human qualities and where coherent speech is privileged as the primary means of communication, ‘Annie’ challenges the notion of personhood. A brief discussion on person-centred care (Section III) will show that, while the term is widely used, there is a dearth of evidence to support its practice and the dialogical character of personhood can be underplayed. In Section IV it will be shown that persons are not isolated monads; personhood therefore is about relations with other persons. In Section V, personhood embodied in practice is described as ‘hands on’ spirituality. Finally, it will be shown that partnership is the preferred model for promoting personhood within healthcare.

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