Compassion in Healthcare: Pilgrimage, Practice, and Civic Life

ISBN : 9780198790860

Joshua Hordern
352 Pages
135 x 216 mm
Pub date
Oct 2020
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Compassion in Healthcare gives an account of the nature and content of compassion and its role in healthcare. While compassion appears to be a straightforward aspect of life and practice, Hordern's analysis shows that it is plagued by both conceptual and practical ills, and stands in need of some quite specific kinds of therapy. Starting from a diagnosis of what precisely is wrong with 'compassion'-its debilitating political entanglements, the vagueness of its meaning, and the risk of burnout it threatens-three therapies are prescribed for these ills: an understanding of patients and healthcare workers as those who pass through the life-course, encountering each other as wayfarers and pilgrims; a grasp of the nature of compassion in healthcare; and an embedding of healthcare within the realities of civic life. Applying these therapeutic strategies uncovers how compassionate relationships acquire their content in healthcare practice. The form that compassion takes is shown to depend on how doctrines of time, tragedy, salvation, responsibility, fault, and theodicy make a difference to the quality of people's lives and relationships. Drawing on the author's real-world collaborations, the way in which compassion matters to practice and policy is worked out in the detail of healthcare professionalism, marketization, and technology. Covering everything from conception to old age, and from machine learning to religious diversity, Compassion in Healthcare draws on philosophy, theology, and everyday experience to expand our understanding of what compassion means for healthcare practice.


1 What's wrong with 'compassion'?
2 Compassion and peregrinatio
3 Compassion's nature
4 Compassion in civic life
5 Compassion and time
6 Compassion and responsibility
7 Compassion in healthcare policy and practice
Epilogue: Compassion, old age and civic life

About the author: 

Joshua Hordern is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics in the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Harris Manchester College. He leads the Oxford Healthcare Values Partnership which conducts collaborative work in healthcare. He has worked closely for over a decade with healthcare colleagues and patients in hospital settings, primary care, professional organisations, medical education, and precision medicine.

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