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Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness [Paperback]

Rita Charon
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 29, 2008 0200000004 978-0195340228 1
Narrative medicine has emerged in response to a commodified health care system that places corporate and bureaucratic concerns over the needs of the patient. Generated from a confluence of sources including humanities and medicine, primary care medicine, narratology, and the study of doctor-patient relationships, narrative medicine is medicine practiced with the competence to recognize, absorb, interpret, and be moved by the stories of illness. By placing events in temporal order, with beginnings, middles, and ends, and by establishing connections among things using metaphor and figural language, narrative medicine helps doctors to recognize patients and diseases, convey knowledge, accompany patients through the ordeals of illness--and according to Rita Charon, can ultimately lead to more humane, ethical, and effective health care.
Trained in medicine and in literary studies, Rita Charon is a pioneer of and authority on the emerging field of narrative medicine. In this important and long-awaited book she provides a comprehensive and systematic introduction to the conceptual principles underlying narrative medicine, as well as a practical guide for implementing narrative methods in health care. A true milestone in the field, it will interest general readers, and experts in medicine and humanities, and literary theory.

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Editorial Reviews


"Narrative Medicine is practical enough to be benefiical to the clinician, yet sufficiently theoretical to serve as a seminal text in the field. Even master clinicians can gain from the knowledge and skills presented here. Charon has written an inspired and inspiring book; and, in her stories of patients and studetns, she is a role model for us all."--Perspectives

"This is a great book...Well done."--Doody's, a 5 star review

"Rita Charon addresses such issues in her most-welcome book, Narrative Medicine: Honoring Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness, a "primer," as she calls it, for the emergent field of "narrative medicine" that she has helped define. The book combines theory-drawn from literary studies, philosophy, anthropology, psychotherapy- and rich narratives from her own patients' and students' lives. It is a compelling mix, backed by the unusual authority of a physician who is also a literary scholar."--Perspectives

"A compelling mix, backed by the unusual authority of a physician who is also a literary scholar."--Lancet

About the Author

Rita Charon is at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0200000004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195340228
  • ASIN: 0195340221
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #350,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Secret of Medicine is to Listen June 28, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The first sentence of Dr. Rita Charon's book, at the start of the preface, begins as follows: "I invite readers to look with my colleagues and me at this form of clinical practice we have come to call narrative medicine, defined as medicine practiced with the narrative competence to recognize, absorb, interpret, and be moved by the stories of illness."

In addition to being a physician, the author holds a PhD degree in English.

Dr. Charon points out that medicine becomes transformed when it is practiced with a real respect for time and timeliness, that patients lament when their uniqueness is not valued, that a clinician should not stop with the obvious or evident story line but should keep looking, in a creative way, to construct a wide and deep diagnosis, open to various possibilities, and that medicine is "based on complex texts which are shaped between doctor and patient, texts that encompass words, silences, physical findings, pictures, measurements of substances in the body, and appearances."

Further quoting Dr. Charon, "Medicine is itself a more narratively inflected enterprise than it realizes. Its practice is suffused with attention to life's temporal horizons, with the commitment to describe the singular, with the urge to uncover plot...., and with an awareness of the intersubjective and ethical nature of healing."

These aspects of temporality, singularity, causality/contingency, intersubjectivity (two people relating to each other) and ethical concern are the hallmarks of storytelling or narrative. The use of the term "intersubjectivity" emphasizes that "it is in meeting with other selves that the self comes alive."

To help the reader develop competence in handling narrative, the practical centerpiece of the book is Dr.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Jeff D.
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I picked up this book because I'm interested in using stories to change the way that people with chronic illness look at themselves and their situation based on story. I had also seen a very inspiring TED talk by Rita a few months ago.

While the content in this book is brilliant, however I found it difficult to read. The author uses a lot of language that I'm just not familiar with, so I stopped reading it after a few dozen pages. That said, if you're a medical practitioner, you'll probably love it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Attempt to humanize medicine May 4, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A nice attempt to humanize a discipline that becomes superspecialized and procedural oriented and is controlled by economists and bureaucrats.
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1.0 out of 5 stars very difficult read June 2, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Found it very dense and not terribly reader-friendly. Despite finishing medical school this year, I couldn't make it more than 2 paragraphs at a time before needing a break.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring March 25, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Dr. Charon's perception of how medicine should be practiced should be read by everyone involved in health care delivery. I particularly recommend it to medical students and young doctors
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5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for health care providers November 22, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
First rate! The stories illustrate the power of personal experience to teach health care providers about the importance of seeing the whole person, and to help each of us understand the impact of illness on our very beings.
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