Lifelong Learning Programme

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This material reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein

Also available in:

Databases

Homepage > Databases > Publications

Publications

back to the list

Document Typology: Book
Methodology addressed by the publication:Narrative medicine
Title of document: Narrative medicine - Honoring the Stories of Illness
Name of author(s): Charon R. (2006).
Name of publisher: Oxford University Press: New York
Language of the publication: English
Language of the review: English
Summary:
Rita Charon analyses in the text the meaning of Narrative Medicine starting from its origins, the narrative value of illness experiences, the development of the skills on the side of professionals and the bioethical aspects related to Narrative Medicine.

Five aspects that make up the narrative elements within the relationship with the assisted person are then identified: temporality, uniqueness, causality, intersubjectivity and ethics.

Temporality concerns both the development of patients history through time and the recognition of the subjectivity in the value attributed to time. A second aspect is the person uniqueness and his/her experience.
Recognising in the patient’s words the meaning he attributes to the illness allows to create a therapeutic relationship based on dialogue, understanding and sharing.

As Charon affirms, causality means that the physician investigates with a creative open mind and heart to the several casual relations between the symptoms and the ill person complex situations by connecting the various and separated events and elements, in order to create a scheme that make illness as something that makes sense for him.

Intersubjectivity rises from the meeting between a teller and a listener through a text, it is a story seen as a structure that relates events according to meaningful causal relations.

Charon affirms that therapeutical relations are based on complex texts including words, silences, physical aspects and images. Narrative can lead the teller to state confidential inner sides of himself.


The professionalism of the carer involves an ethic attitude of a respectful and careful listening in receiving the stories of the assisted person, avoiding making officious questions, looking for information not strictly useful or that can force the story. A professional and qualified medicine can help the patient fighting against the loss of health and to find a meaning of the same illness, by encouraging within the care path the activation of the individual’s personal resources.

Reviewer's comments on the document:
The text is particularly important as regards Narrative Medicine literature, because it contains the fundamental principles supporting this concept.
Narrative Medicine aims to understand the meaning of the illness experiences in a comprehensive and respectful picture of the assisted person. It is also directed to the identification of problems and physical/psychological suffering of the sick person in order to establish priorities and perform care interventions and give support in a coherent way.
This medicine is practised with the narrative skills of recognizing, acquiring, understanding and being moved by the stories of illness.
Narrative Medicine, as a new dimension of health care, provides new perspectives and the hope that the healthcare system – which is now fragmented in many aspects – could be more effective than before.
Its aim is to treat the disease by knowing and respecting who has been affected and the support to those who care for the ill persons.
The descriptions of the disease provide a comprehensive approach to the problems, moreover through the interpretation of the patient’s autobiographical story they facilitate and orient therapeutic and diagnostic choices. Stories about illness are both a mean to train patients and health care professionals and they may also enlarge and enrich research possibilities. In this sense Narrative Medicine it is not only a complementary approach to better understand the patient but it becomes also a basic element for the diagnosis and treatment acts.
Where to find it: The book is available on Google Books Pdf of the publication

back to the list