Hope in Healthcare

Marina Kwak
When Hope Makes Us Vulnerable: A Discussion of Patient-Healthcare Provider Interactions in the Context of Hope

Research in brief

Not much is devoted to the description of hope in bioethics literature beyond the context of ‘false hopes’. This paper by Dr. Christy Simpson explores the detailed description of hope, one designed primarily for the healthcare context. The function of imagination in hope is discussed in depth; and the overarching theme is that adequately describing hope can broaden the normative inquiry into the role of hope in healthcare. The four aspects of hope include: the role of desires/wants, the connection to values/goals, the role of imagination and its link to uncertainty; and the action component of hope. To address patients’ hope in ethical fashion, healthcare providers should acknowledge a) the vulnerability that accompanies the hope(s) of patients, b) that this vulnerability can take different forms, and c) that exacerbating, taking advantage of, or ignoring these various vulnerabilities can affect the ability of patients to hope — and could even undermine patient-healthcare provider relationships. Dr. Simpson suggests future work on the role of hope in healthcare should consider how healthcare providers can best attend to patients’ hope considering these different vulnerabilities. 

  • Marina Kwak
Simpson, C. (2004). When Hope Makes Us Vulnerable: A discussion of Patient-Healthcare Provider Interactions in the Context of Hope. Bioethics. 18.5.

Photo: by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash.