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Hermeneutic phenomenological research

This series of blogs bring to knowledge paper 5 on hermeneutic (interpretive) phenomenology.

Paper 5.

Harris, D.A. Jack, K. and Wibberley, C. (2018) The meaning of living with uncertainty for people with motor neurone disease. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 27, 2062-2071.

Early in my postgraduate studies I had discussed with academic colleagues how the participants had described facing death with MND as filled with anxieties, due both to certainties and uncertainties, such as the certainty that MND will progress further before the person dies, and uncertainties over how long they have left to live, or how they will die. However, there is limited knowledge available on the existential concerns of uncertainty. Paper 5 reports on a hermeneutic (interpretive) phenomenological study exploring the meaning of uncertainty for people who are diagnosed and living with MND. Finlay (2011: 229) suggested:

It is important with phenomenological analysis to take time to dwell with the raw data such that implicit, layered meanings come to the fore. At its best, the process of doing the analysis becomes an embodied lived experience in itself. It is not just a cognitive, intellectual exercise. When I am well immersed in an analysis, I am there sensing, moving, empathising, responding and resonating with my whole body-self. In a sense I am re living the experiential accounts and ‘re-membering’ (re-embodying) what was said.

I had two years to dwell and to re-live the experiential accounts of existence with MND, in particular remembering (re-embodying) what was said. ‘It’s like being on death row without knowing when the executioner is going to pop in’ was a comment that haunted me, and that I came back to again and again, because people with MND are experiencing life in crisis. Despite the involvement of a multidisciplinary team of professionals, they are experiencing uncertainty over how long they have left to live, and how they will die, and none of the professionals are open to having those discussions.