Stefano Tomelleri

"And if there were sorts of ghosts". Narrative practices in the Italian Intensive Care Unit

  • Abstract

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During the last years, intensive care units (ICU) have recorded a massive progress of knowledge and of operating possibilities, especially thanks to the techno-scientific innovations concerning biomedical technologies. The introduction of sophisticated technological equipments has generated a new human condition, in the sense of biological, psychological and social existence, never seen before. The reflections expressed in this essay are the result of a recent interdisciplinary survey carried out in 2005, which has involved, through the creation of focus groups, about 50 health operators, doctors and nurses, working in six Italian intensive care units. In each intensive care unit, have been organized three focus groups: the participants have been asked to express their personal point of view concerning the end-of-life decisions related to a specific topic of discussion: the action and the impact of technology in the medical practices, the success and the failure in the end-of-life decisions, the image of ICU seen as a context of relations and interactions. Through the textual analysis of the accounts, we have tried to underline, between the single discussions, the most meaningful critical polarization of the communicative knowledge. The original aspect of this narrative register is a critic of the image of medical technology as being able to take part successfully in whichever situation. What emerges is an awareness of sociological and relational factors which are impressive in the decision making.

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