Autonomy and Environment


| Autonomy

abstract for Making Space, Association for Medical Humanities Conference, University of Limerick, 17-19 June 2020 (cancelled due to Coronavirus pandemic)

Our abstract for a conference paper reflecting on an understanding of environment and the relationships this affords towards supporting a person's autonomy was accepted for the Association for Medical Humanities annual conference in Limerick. We are looking forward to writing up our final paper and to hear other papers critically exploring space in its broadest sense: "its metaphors, configuration and geographies."

Unfortunately the conference has been cancelled due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, but has been rescheduled for next year.

Our abstract proposal:

"Tracing Autonomy – a reflection on autonomy, creativity and end of life"

Authors: Jeni Pearson & Kirsty Stansfield

We know that space and environment have a major influence on people’s behaviour and how they interact and engage with others. The spaces of care, creativity and wider society are constituted through dialogue and embodied sensory experience. In the context of palliative care this takes on further significance as people’s health declines and disability increases.

Autonomy is particularly significant in the context of palliative care, as for many living with life limiting illness or conditions choices are often involuntary and people experience a lack of control over their lives in addition to a loss of self. In this situation the details matter and attention to the physical and internal spaces that creativity affords are common to clinical, therapeutic and creative practices that are orientated towards supporting autonomy, such as the newly designed Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice in Glasgow.

Care can empower as well as disempower. Attention must be given to the factors that support people to make their own choices when facing their own mortality, take creative risks, rewrite their own present, author their own experiences, and importantly to form reciprocal moral relationships of trust, care and need.

Situated in a hospice and the context of palliative care, two artists and a philosopher have developed Tracing Autonomy, a transferable reflective framework that supports a person’s autonomy in life. By considering how well the artists’ approach to working with patients to develop their own creative practice supports the autonomy of the patient, the artists developed their own reflective method by expanding the holistic assessment commonly used within palliative care to assess a patient’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs. This has been expanded to include a consideration of the influence of environment, quality of dialogue and sensory factors on a person’s creative and care experience.

This paper will reflect on the importance of a deeper understanding of environment and the relationships this affords towards supporting autonomy.

copyright 2020 Kirsty Stansfield & Jeni Pearson

The original conference call can be found here:

image of Tracing Autonomy workshop, Check In Check Up, Crawford Arts Centre, Cork