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Book and Media Reviews
December 6, 2006

Narrative Medicine

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 2006;296(21):2620-2625. doi:10.1001/jama.296.21.2622

Rita Charon, MD, PhD, is a practicing internist at Columbia University Medical Center (and the daughter and granddaughter of physicians). With a doctorate in literary studies, she is a cofounder of the clinical practice known as narrative medicine, which is informed, she states, by the theory and practice of reading and writing brought to bear on the stories patients tell.

Dr Charon is critical of a purely biological reductionist approach to illness. She finds the “revolving sets of specialists” and technological sophistication of 21st-century medicine inadequate to allow patients to find meaning in the midst of illness, and she suggests that contemporary modes of practice may serve to divide physicians from “the ordinary human experiences that surround pain, suffering, and dying.” Narrative medicine, she argues, can serve as an antidote:

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