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Books, Journals, New Media
February 28, 2001

FictionThe Diagnosis

Author Affiliations
 

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media

 

Not Available

 

by Alan Lightman, 369 pp, $25, ISBN 0-679-43615-4, New York, NY, Pantheon Books, 2000.

JAMA. 2001;285(8):1073-1074. doi:10.1001/jama.285.8.1073-JBK0228-2-1

Bill Chalmers is an information analyst who works in Boston. He is 40 years old and obsessed with time. Always in a hurry, frequently gazing at his watch, and submersed in busy schedules, Chalmers is constantly worrying about being late. Yet he appears to enjoy a comfortable life—until one morning in June, when a single, unexpected, and unexplainable event irrevocably alters his life.

While riding on a commuter train, he abruptly forgets his name and his destination. His amnesia is soon accompanied by a tingling and then numbness of his hands and eventually his feet. By the end of the novel, Chalmers is a prisoner in a useless body and confined to a wheelchair. Although his illness causes him no physical pain, his suffering is further accentuated by an ineffectual medical system unable to diagnose his disorder.

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