ERIC Number: EJ856904
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-May
Bochner, Arthur P.
Journal of Applied Communication Research, v37 n2 p159-166 May 2009
In "Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness," Rita Charon paints an original and humane portrait of what it can mean to be a doctor, to live a life immersed in sickness and dedicated to wellness. Charon drops the veil, inviting readers to look at the secret, subjective, emotional face of medicine, a zone of self-censored feelings and desires cloaked in secrecy as if they were a source of shame and embarrassment. Charon allows, even encourages, her readers to peek into the personal side of medicine, where they can glimpse what may be going on inside the doctor who treats them. In this article, the author discusses narrative medicine which is vulnerable medicine. It can be healing and comforting, but it's also heartbreaking for many young physicians--and older ones too. Narrative medicine is a tale that tells truths previously hidden, truths doctors were afraid to disclose; truths that sometimes are a source of shame and guilt and vulnerability; truths that made it difficult for doctors to get to know themselves because they deprived themselves of the opportunities to get to know the other characters in the story of doctoring--the sick persons--as persons, and to reflect deeply, subjectively, on what the sick person's experience opens up to the doctor, what the doctor can learn if she allows herself to be examined by the patient. The highest virtue of narrative medicine is its capacity to give voice to the gaping silence that surrounds the experience of death and dying in America. The moral of the story, the relational story of narrative medicine, is that doctors are not the only ones who need a new plot for their lives; patients do too. If patients haven't been encouraged to think of their lives in a narrative way, in terms of beginnings, middles, and endings, a story that comes to an end one day, then there is very little a doctor can do to help a patient comprehend illness and death. In the face of death, what the sufferer needs from her doctor is not false platitudes or easy comfort, but rather companionship and intimate connection.
Descriptors: Physicians, Self Disclosure (Individuals), Physician Patient Relationship, Affective Behavior, Personal Narratives, Reflection, Medicine, Patients, Medical Education, Intimacy
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A