Printer Friendly

Patient Encounters: The Experience of Disease.

Patient Encounters: The Experience of Disease

The practice of medicine and the study of its ethics, like private clubs and rules of syntax, are gradually becoming more inclusive. Doctors are paying more heed to what patients have been telling them, and the reading of literature has emerged as one means for sensitizing physicians to patients' stories. Ethicists are paying more heed to what clinicians have been telling them, and the study of the doctor's character has helped ethicists to understand better the doctor's actions. Two recent books help to bring these new developments into focus.

In the introduction to his powerful, exciting new book, Patient Encounters, philosopher James H. Buchanan quotes Dr. Jurgen Thorowald: "The status and progress of medicine ought always to be judged primarily from the point of view of the suffering patient and never from the point of view of one who has never been ill." In Patient Encounters, Buchanan succeeds in painting a series of vivid portraits of illness from the patient's perspective. Himself a victim of infectious endocarditis as a child, he writes movingly about his own illness and also describes the death of his mother from lung cancer. He chronicles struggles of famous persons (viz. Thomas Wolfe's demise from tuberculosis, Flannery O'Connor's battle against lupus, Wilder Penfield's fight to save his sister from a malignant brain tumor, Harvey Cushing's crusade against acromegaly) and fictional ones (all of whom are based on actual patients and clinical events).

Each of the sixteen stories deals with a specific disease (for example, porphyria, progeria, Parkinson's syndrome, AIDS). He weaves together, in a smooth and effective manner, the clinical, textbook facts about each illness with the story of a person or a family locked in mortal combat against that illness. The dry coldness of the textbook descriptions is overwhelmed by the warmth and vigor of the patients' stories.

Dale A. Matthews is assistant professor of medicine, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, and George Morris Piersol Teaching and Research Scholar, American College of Physicians.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Hastings Center
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Matthews, Dale A.
Publication:The Hastings Center Report
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1990
Previous Article:The Right to Be Born Healthy.
Next Article:Becoming a Good Doctor: The Place of Virtue and Character in Medical Ethics.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters