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June 26, 1996

The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics

Author Affiliations

Yale University School of Medicine New Haven, Conn

JAMA. 1996;275(24):1933-1934. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530480075047

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In At the Will of the Body: Reflections on Illness, Arthur Frank gave a moving account of his own troubles. Now, in The Wounded Storyteller he writes of the need (obligation, really) for sick persons to tell their stories in order to clarify their own illnesses. For Frank, the wounded healer and the wounded storyteller often turn out to be the same person; the tales of sickness give it meaning and create "empathic bonds" between the teller and listener (or reader).

A sociologist at the University of Calgary, Frank has survived several diseases, from heart trouble to cancer and more. In that way he has joined what he terms the "remission society," people who have been sick and are now well but who can never be completely cured. In this group he includes people in "cardiac rehab" programs, those recovered from any cancer, people with chronic diseases, and even victims