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April 17, 1996

Caring for Patients: A Critique of the Medical Model

Author Affiliations

Yale University School of Medicine New Haven, Conn

JAMA. 1996;275(15):1206. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530390074040

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


The late Allen Barbour, MD, was professor of clinical medicine emeritus at Stanford University and served as chief of the Stanford Diagnostic Clinic at the Stanford Medical School from 1971 to 1981. Caring for Patients was completed just prior to his sudden death in 1993. The book represents Dr Barbour's 40-year journey to better understand the link between the psychosocial aspects of a person's life and the source of medical illness. Although he was well suited to undertake the mission of "untangling the psychosocial dimensions of an illness," because of the complexities of the topic and the many contentious assumptions about the interaction between the patient's psychosocial environment and medical illness, this book is only a partial success.

The author has correctly diagnosed that there are many shortcomings to a strictly biomedical model as it is commonly practiced in medicine today and has properly estimated the magnitude of the problem.