One Face of Beauty, One Picture of Health: The Hidden Aesthetic of Medical Practice
Stafford, Barbara M.
La Puma, John
Schiedermayer, David L.
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. 1989 Apr; 14(2): 213-230.
Unrecognized presuppositions about patient appearance have become increasingly important in medicine, medical ethics and medical law. Symptoms of these historically conditioned assumptions include common ageism, aesthetic surgery, and litigation about wrongful life. These phenomena suggest a societal intolerance for what is considered an abnormal appearance. Among others, eighteenth-century artists and anatomists helped to set these twentieth-century precedents, actually measuring deviations of external traits to analogous deformations of the soul, and drawing moral conclusions from physiognomic measurements. Other eighteenth-century artists countered with pathognomy, recognizing that uneven physical features may indicate humanity, instead of character flaws. We suggest that there is an important and as yet unrecognized role played by visual and perceptual preferences in our judgments concerning normalcy and anomaly....
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