Bodily pain and distress come in many forms. They can well up from within at times of serious illness, but the body can also be subjected to harsh treatment from outside. The medical system is often cold and depersonalized, and much worse are conditions experienced by prisoners in our age of mass incarceration, and by animals trapped in our factory farms. In this pioneering book, Drew Leder offers bold new ways to rethink how we create and treat distress, clearing the way for more humane social practices.
Leder draws on literary examples, clinical and philosophical sources, his medical training, and his own struggle with chronic pain. He levies a challenge to the capitalist and Cartesian models that rule modern medicine. Similarly, he looks at the root paradigms of our penitentiary and factory farm systems and the way these produce distressed bodies, asking how such institutions can be reformed. Writing with coauthors ranging from a prominent cardiologist to long-term inmates, he explores alternative environments that can better humanize—even spiritualize—the way we treat one another, offering a very different vision of medical, criminal justice, and food systems. Ultimately Leder proposes not just new answers to important bioethical questions but new ways of questioning accepted concepts and practices.