Health, dying and human flourishing

Gareth 2012Presented by Dr. Gareth Tuckwell, Trustee of Macmillan Cancer Support

Health, dying and human flourishing.  A short phrase but one that relates to the whole of our lives.  In difficult times, we can flourish or languish; we can look to achieving our death or we can be resigned to it.

Katie was dying, flourishing and in one sense healthy!

She was 60, in the last lap of MND, …communication was by blinking the Morse code, …carers were enlarged through being with her; she had a sense of joy grown quiet within her paralysed body.  She achieved her dying, with a sense of flourishing in the waiting.

In the UK our understanding of health is based on our knowledge of illness.  We have a curious situation whereby the National Health Service and Healthcare professionals are largely concerned with disease. Targets promote the concept that health is achieved by eliminating disease, meaning disease that is categorised in terms of identifiable pathology.

The NHS is doing a great job in delivering core evidence-based healthcare, or rather, disease-care, but we are probably here at this conference because we hold a vision for something more.  We have a dream, perhaps, of building communities where human flourishing is found through an environment that offers relationship, compassion and care; communities that embrace the totality of our need.

As Michael Wilson said here in Birmingham 38 years ago, health is a concept like truth which cannot easily be defined.  To define it is to kill it.  Nor can it be possessed.  It can only be shared.  There is no health for me without my brother or sister.  There is no health for Britain without Bangladesh.  Health is a value word.  The language of science alone is insufficient to describe health.  Giving people the treatment they require does not necessarily bring health…

For the complete text of the presentation, download the following:

Health Dying and Human flourishing


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