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Event Summary: Hope in Healthcare – a talk by Professor Steve Clarke

In a special lecture on 14 June 2022, Professor Steve Clarke presented work co-authored with Justin Oakley, ‘Hope in Healthcare’.

It is widely supposed that it is important to imbue patients undergoing medical procedures with a sense of hope. But why is hope so important in healthcare, if indeed it is? We examine the answers that are currently on offer and show that none do enough to properly explain the importance that is often attributed to hope in healthcare. We then identify a hitherto unrecognised reason for supposing that it is important to imbue patients undergoing significant medical procedures with hope, which draws on prospect theory, Kahneman and Tversky’s hugely influential descriptive theory about decision making in situations of risk and uncertainty. We also consider some concerns about patient consent and the potential manipulation of patients, that are raised by our account. We then consider some complications for the account raised by religious sources of hope, which are commonly drawn on by patients undergoing major healthcare procedures.

Bio: Steve Clarke is a Professor in the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Charles Sturt University, and a Senior Research Associate in the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford.

This lecture was jointly organised between the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities and Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.

Recordings available at

Oxford Podcasts


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1 Comment on this post

  1. Interesting. Over the past three years, Doctors have been monitoring an abnormality in one of my lungs. CAT scans have been administered. So far, it is just sitting there. Recently, another follow up scan was ordered. I returned a phone call concerning scheduling. When I requested the scan be done at a facility visited before, I was told this site had been discontinued, as well as one or two others closer to our new residence.(This is one of three healthcare systems in our metropolitan area) the scheduling person proceeded to advise me of four other available sites, three of which are out of town, the other, on the far east side of the city. I can get to any of them, but have issues with driving, due to other health problems. Perhaps I will feel more confident after upcoming eye surgeries. But, right now, the need seems outweighed by risks. So, I elect to wait. I am still hopeful. But, I am also a pragmatist.

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