narrative medicine
n. Medicine that uses the story of a patient‘s illness combined with traditional medical practices as a way of understanding, diagnosing, and treating the illness.

Example Citations:
Narrative medicine imports terms from literature to describe the doctor-patient relationship. In describing his backache, Charon said, the Dominican man was actually telling an "illness narrative," which can be interpreted just like a literary text: by examining the presentation of character, the structure of the tale and the plot of the disease. Regardless of the outcome — the diagnosis or treatment ... — what is central is the telling and receiving of the tale.
—Melanie Thernstrom, "The Writing Cure," The New York Times, April 18, 2004

The 45-year-old woman writhing in pain from an abdominal illness groans and snaps irritably at the medical student who is examining her. Her grimaces and grumbling are not articulate, but to a careful listener like Stephen Lee-Kong, a fourth-year medical student at Columbia University, they are part of a narrative that will explain what's wrong with her.

Teaching students how to "read" patients and listen as their stories unfold are goals of an innovative program here in what has become known as "narrative medicine."
—Katherine S. Mangan, "Behind Every Symptom, a Story," The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 13, 2004,

Earliest Citation:
Both Drs. Brody and Kleinman seem to agree that the remedy for our chronic inattention to the patient is a new emphasis in both teaching and practice in ''medical humanities.'' To those who believe that medical humanities are to the humanities as military music is to music, Dr. Brody's eloquent book presents a formidable challenge. He fully displays the virtues of his new discipline as he shows us how literary criticism and social sciences can be applied to the tales of illness that doctors and patients tell one other.
—Gerald Weissmann, "Narrative medicine," The New York Times, July 17, 1988

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