Rivista per le Medical Humanities

Chantal Marazia
rMH 13, 2010, 11-14

Short biography of a diagnosis

This paper focuses on how the word “nostalgia” has changed over time. The Swiss doctor Johannes Hofer first used it in 1688 to describe a fairly common illness which, until then, had been ignored. Adolescents and young people (such as soldiers or mercenaries) who were forced to live away from home and their families often suffered from it. Today, even if the medical origin of the word is clear, it does not bring to mind any kind of medical condition. In this paper the evolution of the word is examined, in particular how it changed from being a mental illness to being a professional illness. It then changed again and became a “reaction” to modern life and, as such, it involves many different sciences, including medicine and criminology. This analysis highlights the permeability of the interface between the language of medicine and commonly used words. It stresses how important it is to include nostalgia as a medical condition once again. Nostalgia should not simply be a diagnosis – it should be included as a factor that affects the clinical conditions of patients and the healing process.

Guenda Bernegger
rMH 13, 2010, 15-23

Ithaca. Nostalgic voices

If nostalgia is a disease, any other kind of illness can make people vulnerable to it. Being far away from home and cut off from everything familiar and comforting is a situation that causes nostalgia. Not being able to be at home because of an illness, i.e. being “exiled” from home, can cause the same kinds of feelings, leading to nostalgia. Different meanings (negative, positive or both at the same time) are therefore linked with nostalgia. This paper finds a connection between the stories (true or fictional) of people treating this condition and the patients’ different experiences (a number of authors such as Thomas Mann, Hervé Guibert, Leonardo Zanier, Pietro De Marchi, Milan Kundera are included in this paper).

Giona Morinini
rMH 13, 2010, 24-30

The illusion of returning

Nostalgia is the pain felt by immigrants, living in a foreign country, who wish to return home. The origin of their pain is the feeling of “not fitting in”, because they “do not feel at home” in the country they have emigrated to. Immigrants risk feeling they are only physically in the new country and not mentally, because their soul is elsewhere. Yet returning home – to exactly the same place they left – is an illusion and will never be a cure for their pain and illness. Immigrants therefore are neither in their country of origin (because they do not live there anymore) nor in the country of residence (because, even though they are living there, they are not considered part of the native social, cultural and political identity). Nostalgia is therefore a social illness caused by the wish to belong to two communities, the original one and the foreign one, both of which are proud of the purity of their origins. The lack of reciprocal acknowledgement leads to exclusion and marginalisation, creating suspicion and fear between the immigrant and native communities. This, in turn, does not allow the people who are part of the social structure we live in to create an integrated society.

Matteo Terzaghi
rMH 13, 2010, 31-34

Tarkovsky's Nostalghža

Nostalghìa is Andrej Tarkovsky’s seventh and second-last long film, the first to be shot outside the Soviet Union. After Nostalghìa, filmed in Italy in 1983, Tarkovsky chose to live in exile. He managed to shoot the film The Sacrifice in Sweden before dying of cancer in a Parisian hospital, at the age of 54. This paper was designed to be an introduction to Andrej Tarkovsky’s film Nostalghìa, which will be projected as part of the 5th “Ethical and cinema journey” (Lugano Civic Hospital). The paper aims at making viewers think about how nostalgia, exile and disease are related.  

Michela Luisoni Baumgartner
Pierluigi Quadri
rMH 13, 2010, 53-58

Containment measures and the elderly, safety and risk

The analysis of the data obtained from studies of containment measures (physical containment in particular), which highlights the severely damaging consequences of this practice and the effects it has on the quality of life, has led the authors to condemn such practice among staff assisting patients. They insist that assisting staff must be constantly informed about the risks of containment measures, about alternative strategies and about the correct use of containment measures should they be the only effective solution. If this is the case, however, they should always be considered a temporary solution. The authors feel very strongly about this issue in all cases but especially in cases dealing with elderly patients, who are vulnerable.  

Bernardino Fantini
rMH 13, 2010, 59-63

Evolution of containment methods in hospitals and asylums

This paper analyses the evolution of containment methods in hospitals and mental asylums, from the past to the present day. It focuses on the use of bandages, plaster and other instruments that contain wounds during surgery and orthopaedic operations (to keep bone fragments together and limit post-operative movement in patients) and on the use of anaesthesia and straightjackets (physical and drug-based) for the repression, control, persuasion and correction of psychiatric patients. It includes containment measures used for “the patient’s good”, to ensure their safety (although they were often used to keep peace and order in institutes). The description of the techniques, the terms used and meanings given will allow readers to understand this medical practice and the differences and similarities of its purposes and strategies. The full understanding of all the above is necessary to judge the ethical issues related to it and make an informed decision on the matter.