my glance meets the glance of the other …


Quality of life is the provoking theme launched by Medicine and the Person as the subject of a systematic review for this year. Science offers us adequate tools for understanding the biological side of a disease. Nevertheless, we need different methods to understand the sick person who relies on us. Looking at the sick person, encountering him or her, is the beginning of a different kind of knowledge, affective knowledge, which is essential for understanding what mainly regards us, doctors or nurses. In French, the term “regarder” is used both for “looking at” and for describing something that “concerns me”. The Italian term “riguardare” includes an interesting game of words, when applied to human relationships. I look at somebody who looks at me, who returns my glance and therefore he or she concerns me, regards me, enters the domain of my interests (i.e., from an etymological point of view, enters in relationship with my being). In the relationship with the other, my glance meets the glance of the other, which carries the whole dimension of his/her life, desire and disappointment because this desire cannot be fulfilled, because his or her desire is frustrated by the disease and by the expectancy of death. My glance encounters his/her frustration, which comes from the awareness that during sickness it is necessary to depend on others, and from the burden of sufferings and solitude which he or she is required to live with and whose meaning he or she needs to understand. Unexpectedly, my glance may detect an unforeseen positivity even in situations which apparently seem to be most hostile to that wellness at which, in Dante’s words, “everybody confusedly aims”.It is the unexpected discovery of new dimensions of oneself and of one’s own life. The other (not only the other person, but reality itself) is the necessary witness of his/her own life, and it is necessary for us to understand not only his or her personal dimension, but also the meaning of our profession, which entirely depends on this relationship. Medicine is destined to be unable to recognize and to take care of the other’s needs, if it pretends to explore physiopathology of a disease without considering this dimension, which exceeds every attempt at biological reductions. Art, primarily, is a way to know reality. When an artist describes his/her sickness, he or she can reveal and disclose those dimensions which everyone faces, senses, and often cannot express, hiding them inside the unspeakable space of affections and motions of the heart, held back by shyness or simply by the inability of expressing them. Marie Michèle Poncet is an artist. During her hospitalization for femur fracture, she has been thrown into a new dimension marked by unusual perceptions, rhythms, expectancies and encounters. She noted all these intuitions on her drawing pad, enriching them with the communicative capacity of images. The author added legends to every drawing, which explain us the subtle hints and the dense meanings of her pictorial expression. We collected this material into a book (1).
We report here a few drawings, together with a letter written by Marie Michèle after her hospitalization, which we entitled “Hospital discharge letter”. It is a taste of an artwork which we would like to become an encounter for everybody and a relevant educational tool for health care professionals.
(1) The Paeony Bouquet. Travel note-book in the hospital. Drawings by Marie Michèle Poncet. Edited by Paola Marenco and Giorgio Bordin.Itaca Libri Editions. Available at the Meeting of Rimini and on sale from september 2008. Online:

A cura di Giorgio Bordin