Rivista per le Medical Humanities

Guenda Bernegger
rMH 35, 2016, 11-18

More than regret, narration

Regret, both in the form of nostalgia, as well as in that of remorse, imposes itself as the figure of our temporal human condition. The irreversibility of time consigns us to the impossibility of ensuring that what no longer exists returns to being, and that what has been has not been. The capacity of memory, of remembrance, and of narration, a reworking of experiences in the symbolic order of language, are all possible ways to face the suffering that often accompanies the consciousness of irreversibility. Oftentimes, however, these same functions remain troubled and the symbolic work, which is able to make the past available and active in the present, is hindered. This is when regret emerges: the manifestation of a fragility of remembering that, no longer able to integrate memories in a timely and coherent narrative, lets them exist as senseless and painful, making so that our being suffers acutely, thrown into a time for which, for the most part, we have no influence. Among the means at our disposal that we can use to counter such suffering, in the essay, the ones that are privileged are those that permit memory to be worked on again, allowing painful memories to be processed in a perspective of openness. If we think of past experience as if still in the present, due to it being inscribed in the timely narrative of our existence, and imagining the past as open space, within which we can now move around, it is perhaps possible to lighten the weight of the definitive and of irreversibility and ensure that the foundations of regret disappear.    

Mariacecilia Bianchi
Chiara Foà
rMH 35, 2016, 21-29

Memoires in search of meaning

At the Foundation G. Aragon Institute of Geriatric Rehabilitation in San Giovanni in Croce (Cremona), within the department for patients in a vegetative state/state of minimal consciousness, a study was conducted in collaboration with the University Hospital of Parma under the supervision of the psychotherapist, Dr. Chiara Foà, entitled “Memory and writing: family members of patients in a vegetative state and a state of minimal consciousness”. The research aimed at studying the psychological experiences of family members of patients in a vegetative state/state of minimal consciousness, and analyzing their behavior, in order to identify a possible effective course of support. The theoretical model of reference is autobiographical writing, regarding the specific illness, with a semistructured outline. Each autobiographical interview was collected and analyzed using the “Patient’s Agenda” method, a relational tool that starts from “what the patient brings with himself/herself and with his/her illness”. “The vegetative state creates a vacuum and not a period of mourning, therefore, the possibility of processing exists. One continues to take care of the family member, but he/she is no longer here. In the vacuum, you cannot go forward while, after a death you can”. The 5 th edition of the dsm defines it as Prolonged Grief Disorder.    

Christina Schües
Christoph Rehmann-Sutter
rMH 35, 2016, 30-36

Will they then agree with what occurred?

In this paper, critically different decision-making models concerning bone marrow donation by minors were analyzed, which are used in the pediatrics field. Based on this analysis, the following position is supported: the child’s will is a concept that has to do with time, it is projected towards the future. Children eventually grow up and, when they become adults, can gain an insight into the events of their childhood. From these considerations, it is legitimate to try to achieve a good integration of the experience of these subjects within their biography, as well as their retrospective consent towards parental decisions and the events experienced in their childhood. In retrospect, will the child donor succeed in identifying him or herself with the decisions reached at that time and with his or her own role – determined by these decisions – as the “savior of life” with regard to his or her sibling? The concept of a successful integration of the experience in the biography of a donor, together with the idea of retrospective consent, can finally be considered a contribution to the theory on the behavior to adopt into other areas of pediatric medicine, where irreversible interventions are concerned.

Annamaria Fantauzzi
rMH 35, 2016, 37-40

Indelible wounds in the body and spirit

This paper presents problems related to the traumatic journey of forced migrants who reach the coasts of Italy, with a particular focus on the somatic and psychological wounds they carry with them. Commenting on several real life stories and testimonies of the subjects encountered in first and second reception centers (cas and sprar), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (ptsd) will mainly be analyzed: the difficulty in observing it behind irreversible wounds in the mind and those etched into the bodies of the martyred, raped, and tortured. Along with the somatization disorder, those mental illness will be taken into consideration, regarding primary and secondary traumatization, which characterize the life of origin and the migratory processes of refugees, who are also living a transculturation stress during the stages of adaptation towards the society into which they arrive and towards its modus vivendi. One can, therefore, speak of irreversibility in the signs on the body as invisible wounds but equally, or more invasive, in the memory and reworking of the trauma.

Alessandra Pace
rMH 35, 2016, 41-43

Irreversible, but not overly

How do artists deal with irreversibility, and can their attitude inspire us to understand the points of no return of our life as a necessary means for transformation? The work of three artists who value the absoluteness of irreversibility might give us a lead. In 2001, Michael Landy deliberately put himself in an irreversible situation. He carried out Break Down, a prolonged action which consisted in destroying all his belongings, including the works of art he had made until then, in order to force himself to start his life from scratch and conceive his artistic activity afresh. Santiago Sierra marked for life some unemployed young men and drug-addicted prostitutes who agreed to have a horizontal line tattooed on their back for $ 30. His video documented actions implicated him as villain exploiting unprivileged people precisely to denounce their economic marginalization. The irreversibility of the action makes it real, since it introduces the elements of cruelty and injustice, victim and perpetrator without which the work would be limited to the realm of representation. In the 1960s, Andy Warhol embarked on a series of large paintings depicting Death and Disaster scenes taken from tabloids, in which a single image of a car, aeroplane crash, or other fatal accident is replicated in a sequence. Reiteration wears out the drama and dissolves the uniqueness of the irreversible moment by splitting it into repetitive identical scenes.    

Francesca Marone
rMH 35, 2016, 44-51


What happens when the intervention of a clinical overview formulates a response and expresses the prognosis of an outcome in one way or another? The essay focuses on the time of diagnosis as a watershed between a life conducted in an alienated and unconscious manner and the moment of the painful revelation, while being at the same time an unexpected opportunity to reflect on the meaning and the transience of life. The unveiling of the disease corresponds with a fracture in the temporal rhythm and a gash in one’s inner world, in desires and unfulfilled dreams. It is the time when a sudden change is triggered that reverberates on individual projects and the capacity of resilience. The rupturing of the ordinary and of habits, accompanied by the alternation of the threat of a brutal evolution of the disease, namely an aggravation of the same, with the hope of improving, opening up on a personal level towards despair or towards a possible way out of a crisis. Yet, in the temporal dynamic in which there is a “before”, a “during”, and an “after”, the human capacity intervenes that leads to turning a page, making a decision, the right option from one’s own point-of-view, in a more authentic and generative dimension of self-care, which will determine a new state, “another” normality, as a substantial regeneration capable of making the “future” conceivable: a becoming that belongs to us in a connection with others, and that binds us to life. Only in this manner is it possible to escape the nonsense that originates from the only certainty of time that passes.    

Jean Martin
rMH 35, 2016, 52-53

Caring for those who will not recover

Review of the book, La médecine questionnée par l’incurabilité et la fin de vie (Éditions Eres, Toulouse, 2016) – edited by Elisabeth Zucman, rehab doctor, involved for 45 years in the care of individuals with a poly-handicap and their families – which includes the contributions of fourteen authors: psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists, and the testimony of a patient who has been quadriplegic for thirty years. Much of the volume is devoted to the principles and methods of taking into care those individuals called “incurable” – children, adults, seniors – and everything that can be done to ensure their quality of life, making reference to palliative care. The evolution of end-of-life practices in France is also taken into consideration.    

Daniela Lurà
rMH 35, 2016,

Family caregivers

On several occasions – in 2013, in 2014, and in 2016 – a symposium on the theme of family caregivers, in its various manifestations, was jointly organized by several associations in Ticino (Pro Infirmis, Pro Senectute, ABAD, Ticino Cancer League, SUPSI, DSS, ATGABESS) working within the Ticino region with and for family caregivers: the latter being subjects that are not very visible and who deserve recognition and support for the valuable role they play in the network of solidarity of our social system. In the special reports, edited by Michela Luraschi, the 2013 and 2014 editions are presented, followed by two narratives by Massimiliano Verga and Daniela Lurà, presented during the 2016 conference, as testimonies to the experience of parents that have children with a major disability and for which the care-giving process continues well beyond the time of the minor age of the children.