The connections between medicine and well-being are myriad. This paper focuses on the place of well-being in clinical medicine. It is here that different views of well-being, and their connection to concepts like “autonomy” and “authenticity”, both illuminate and are illuminated by looking closely at the kinds of interactions that routinely take place between clinicians, patients, and family members.
In the first part of the paper, I explore the place of well-being in a paradigmatic clinical encounter, one where a competent patient interacts with a clinician. The main question here is how, or even whether, the pursuit of patient well-being – however we construe it – figures into a paradigmatic clinical encounter. In the second part of the paper, I consider what I will call a marginal clinical encounter – one where the patient is, as Agnieska Jaworska (1999) puts it, at the “margins of agency” – to theorize about the nature of well-being and to show how different theories of well-being can have dramatic consequences for clinical decision-making.