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On Being a Patient |

When Doctors Get Sick

Howard M. Spiro, MD; and Harvey N. Mandell, MD
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Yale University School of Medicine; New Haven, CT 06520 Requests for Reprints: Howard M. Spiro, MD, Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, 333 Cedar Street, Box 208019, New Haven, CT 06520. Current Author Addresses: Dr. Spiro: Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, 333 Cedar Street, Box 208019, New Haven, Ct 06520.


Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1998;128(2):152-154. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-128-2-199801150-00014
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Storytelling has gained prominence in medicine, where the tales of the sick are medicalized as “pathography.” Interest in “narrative,” as it is called in academic circles, is equally widespread in history, where stories based on facts and re-created with imagination bring other times to life more dramatically than the dry data of economics and biography. If we physicians read more accounts of our patients' travails and, better still, talked about them with each other, we might improve the humane qualities of medical care. The chiaroscuro of conversation and narrative can so highlight the social, emotional, and economic origins of many complaints that it might even help to make medical practice more cost-effective.

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