How Sociophenomenology of the Body Problematises the ‘Problem-Oriented Approach’ to Growth Hormone Treatment

Article Summary by Maria Cristina Murano

Idiopathic short stature is a medical diagnosis given to children who have a statistically significant short stature for unknown medical reasons. Biomedical and bioethical debates are ongoing as to whether children with idiopathic short stature should be treated with growth hormone in order to increase their height. This article argues that such debates predominantly take what it calls a “problem-oriented approach”, i.e. they focus on objective height and psychosocial problems related to short stature at the expense of first-hand lived experiences. Offering an alternative perspective, this article examines the ways in which 10 people who are shorter than average recount their lived experiences by adopting a sociophenomenological method. In other words, it offers a phenomenological analysis of interviewees’ narrations with an eye to the sociocultural and material dimensions. The analysis shows that height is recounted in three main ways: 1) as active engagement in space, 2) as co-shaping behaviours together with others and things, and 3) as being shaped by gendered norms and beliefs. Height can therefore be seen as something that is shaped in and shapes encounters with others, and not merely as a measurement that might be related to psychosocial problems. The relevance of this shift in perspective is eventually illustrated by the example of a short-stature-specific quality of life questionnaire.

Read the full article on the Medical Humanities journal website.

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