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St Mary’s Academic Explores Compassion in Healthcare

Dr Trevor Stammers at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, has embarked on a project with the University of Oxford to examine compassion in healthcare.

Dr Trevor Stammers, Programme Director for MA Bioethics and Medical Law at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, has embarked on a multidisciplinary project with the University of Oxford to examine compassion in healthcare. A collaboration between the University of Oxford and the Royal Society of Medicine Open Section, the project will explore how humanities disciplines, such as theology and philosophy can serve the public in good healthcare. It aims to facilitate a dialogue between clinicians and humanities academics in order to examine the level of compassionate healthcare in the NHS and how this can be improved. Dr Stammers, who is a leading authority in healthcare ethics, will form part of the research team to explore the use of poetry in illness and healthcare training and how this can increase compassion in healthcare staff. As part of the research project, Dr Stammers recently spoke at a conference on the subject at Oxford University called ‘Contexts for Compassion in Healthcare: exploring visions of the good'. Dr Stammers said, “With stories in the media appearing almost daily about failure of basic care and compassion in the NHS leading to harm of patients, this project is very timely. It was fascinating to be part of this multidisciplinary day examining the concept of compassion in healthcare. We considered many questions during the day including, What is the relationship between time and compassion? Can we teach compassion and if so how? Is compassion an emotion, a disposition, virtue or something else? Is compassion a result of evolution? How has compassion be depicted in art in history? How can we prevent the lack of compassion in the NHS as revealed in the Francis Report? “My own brief was to demonstrate how poetry can be used to illustrate the meaning of compassion and I chose to do this using Walt Whitman’s experiences of nursing the wounded during the American Civil War, described in one of his most famous poems, The Wound Dresser.” As part of the ongoing dialogue, Dr Stammers will attend a future public conference at the Royal Society of Medicine on 3rd December, at which Prof John Wyatt, one of St Mary’s MA Bioethics and Medical Law Visiting Lecturers will be among the speakers. Registration for the conference is currently open and all are welcome.

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