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MyStoma - putting phenomenology into practice

Derek Mitchell


In this paper I will use an example of a person-centered approach to healthcare in action gained from my own experience of coping with serious illness. My overall endeavour will be to show how a philosophical position, based on the phenomenological work of Heidegger and Gadamer, can be effective in the practice of commissioning and providing healthcare and conversely how, in the practice of person-centered healthcare, this philosophical ground is made manifest.

First, I give an account of the MyStoma project in East Kent as an example of person-centered care in practice which has led to improvements in care for people with a stoma. The project gives a voice to people who have a stoma and ensures that the care that they receive reflects their own needs as expressed by the service users themselves. The aim of MyStoma is to change the way that people who have a stoma are involved in the development of the services provided to them and to put their needs and expectations at the heart of all decisions made about stoma care services.

This is followed by a discussion of how the insights gained from MyStoma can provide lessons for those seeking to engage patients in the development and improvement of services by suggesting that they listen to the first hand accounts, or stories, of those who are ill and use what they hear in the development of Service User Agenda, which can then be used as the basis for service development.

Finally I will argue that the success of MyStoma and the primacy it gives to the first hand lived experience of those who are receiving care, rests on a reading of Heidegger’s affirmation of Being-with-Others and his notion of authentic solicitude. By the conclusion of this paper it will be clear that the understanding of the philosophical roots of MyStoma offers the opportunity to extend this successful approach to other care communities based on the understanding of our relationship with Others, like ourselves, as constitutive of our own Being.


Martin Heidegger, ostomists, person-centered healthcare, phenomenology, solicitude, stoma, stoma care services, stoma support groups

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