How sociophenomenology of the body problematises the 'problem-oriented approach' to growth hormone treatment.

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DOI: 10.1136/medhum-2018-011548


This article examines how people who are shorter than average make sense of their lived experience of embodiment. It offers a sociophenomenological analysis of 10 semistructured interviews conducted in the Netherlands, focusing on if, how, and why height matters to them. It draws theoretically on phenomenological discussions of lived and objective space, intercorporeality and norms about bodies. The analysis shows that height as a lived phenomenon (1) is active engagement in space, (2) coshapes habituated ways of behaving and (3) is shaped by gendered norms and beliefs about height. Based on this analysis, the article challenges what we label as the 'problem-oriented approach' to discussions about growth hormone treatment for children with idiopathic short stature. In this approach, possible psychosocial disadvantages or problems of short stature and quantifiable height become central to the ethical evaluation of growth hormone treatment at the expense of first-hand lived experiences of short stature and height as a lived phenomenon. Based on our sociophenomenological analysis, this paper argues that the rationale for giving growth hormone treatment should combine medical and psychological assessments with investigations of lived experiences of the child. Such an approach would allow considerations not only of possible risks or disadvantages of short stature but also of the actual ways in which the child makes sense of her or his height.

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Medical humanities





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MeSH Keywords

Human Growth Hormone/deficiency; Growth Hormone/therapeutic use; Decision Making, Shared; Clinical Decision-Making; Body Image


child health; endocrinology including diabetes; medical ethics/bioethics; medical humanities; philosophy

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