restricted access What the Experience of Illness Teaches

When invited to describe what the experience of illness taught them, a select group of bioethicists took eagerly to the task. This commentary culls three themes from their reflections: responsiveness to vulnerability, love as the proper motive for care, and reflective practice. U.S. bioethics was slow to appreciate the importance of recognizing and responding to human vulnerability. These essays describe its central importance for those suffering illness and make educating a more empathic and responsive generation of caregivers a priority. Descriptions of how family and friendship bonds with an ill person created a unique sense of their inherent dignity and needs clearly raises the question of whether or not love is a necessary motive for professional caregivers. Will our professional care always fall short if not motivated by genuine human love? Finally, each essay teaches anew the importance of the life lessons human experience can teach if we value reflection and seek to experience, understand and learn from our experience.