From one of America's most celebrated psychiatrists, the book that has taught generations of healers why healing the sick is about more than just diagnosing their illness.
Modern medicine treats sick patients like broken machines -- figure out what is physically wrong, fix it, and send the patient on their way. But humans are not machines. When we are ill, we experience our illness: we become scared, distressed, tired, weary. Our illnesses are not just biological conditions, but human ones.
It was Arthur Kleinman, a Harvard psychiatrist and anthropologist, who saw this truth when most of his fellow doctors did not. Based on decades of clinical experience studying and treating chronic illness, The Illness Narratives makes a case for interpreting the illness experience of patients as a core feature of doctoring.
Before Being Mortal, there was The Illness Narratives. It remains today a prescient and passionate case for bridging the gap between patient and practitioner.
A psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, Kleinman vitalizes his book with quotations from patients and members of the healing professions. This is a scholarly study but accessible to a lay audience. Writing of "suffering, healing and the human condition,'' the author observes the dichotomy between technological advances in medicine and the actual treatment of the ill, handicapped and dying. Profoundly moving reports illuminate the deprived lives of social outcasts, shunned and stigmatized, whose needs are not met by the medical community. There are also instructive descriptions of how an empathetic doctor can help ``humans'' (not cases) to regain health or, in extremis, die a ``good death.'' Kleinman argues persuasively the need to reform today's medical-care system to more fully serve humanity.