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The art of healing and knowing in cancer and palliative care

Publication year
Devlin, B.

This article examines the role of artwork in cancer and palliative care. The literature review focuses on both children and adults. One case scenario focuses on a child’s reaction to his mother’s illness showing his distress through painting. Artwork from children are included in the text to help demonstrate some feelings and reactions to illness. Some themes, which emerged from examination of the artwork, were isolation, anger, and lack of hope. Carers became overtly aware of the distress people were experiencing through artwork. Art depicted graphically what people were feeling and can, therefore, be considered a valuable tool in the communication process. It is useful especially when individuals are unable to express their feelings verbally. Recommendations focus on how artwork may be implemented in hospice and hospital settings and on how the environment may be made safe psychologically. The importance of the art process rather than on artistic skill is discussed. The potential for developing creativity at the end of life, when self-esteem may be low is explored.

Research abstracts