email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
Anger and Forgiveness"Are You There Alone?"10 Good Questions about Life and DeathA Casebook of Ethical Challenges in NeuropsychologyA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to Muslim EthicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Critique of the Moral Defense of VegetarianismA Delicate BalanceA Life for a LifeA Life-Centered Approach to BioethicsA Matter of SecurityA Natural History of Human MoralityA Philosophical DiseaseA Practical Guide to Clinical Ethics ConsultingA Question of TrustA Sentimentalist Theory of the MindA Short Stay in SwitzerlandA Very Bad WizardA World Without ValuesAction and ResponsibilityAction Theory, Rationality and CompulsionActs of ConscienceAddiction and ResponsibilityAddiction NeuroethicsAdvance Directives in Mental HealthAfter HarmAftermathAgainst AutonomyAgainst BioethicsAgainst HealthAgainst Moral ResponsibilityAgency and AnswerabilityAgency and ResponsibilityAgency, Freedom, and Moral ResponsibilityAging, Biotechnology, and the FutureAlbert Schweitzer's Reverence for LifeAlphavilleAltruismAmerican EugenicsAmerican PsychosisAn Anthology of Psychiatric EthicsAn Introduction to EthicsAn Introduction to Evolutionary EthicsAn Introduction to Kant's Moral Philosophy And a Time to DieAnimal LessonsAnimal RightsAnimals Like UsApplied Ethics in Mental Health CareAre Women Human?Aristotle on Practical WisdomAristotle's Ethics and Moral ResponsibilityAssisted Suicide and the Right to DieAutonomyAutonomy and the Challenges to LiberalismAutonomy, Consent and the LawBabies by DesignBackslidingBad PharmaBad SoulsBasic Desert, Reactive Attitudes and Free WillBeauty JunkiesBefore ForgivingBeing AmoralBeing YourselfBending Over BackwardsBending ScienceBernard WilliamsBetter Humans?Better Than WellBeyond ChoiceBeyond GeneticsBeyond HatredBeyond Humanity?Beyond LossBeyond LossBeyond Moral JudgmentBeyond the DSM StoryBias in Psychiatric DiagnosisBioethicsBioethicsBioethics and the BrainBioethics at the MoviesBioethics Beyond the HeadlinesBioethics Critically ReconsideredBioethics in a Liberal SocietyBioethics in the ClinicBiomedical EthicsBiomedical EthicsBiomedical EthicsBiomedical EthicsBiomedical Research and BeyondBiosBioscience EthicsBipolar ChildrenBluebirdBodies out of BoundsBodies, Commodities, and BiotechnologiesBody BazaarBoundBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBraintrustBrandedBreaking the SilenceBuffy the Vampire Slayer and PhilosophyCapital PunishmentCase Studies in Biomedical Research EthicsChallenging the Stigma of Mental IllnessCharacter and Moral Psychology Character as Moral FictionChild Well-BeingChildrenChildren's RightsChoosing ChildrenChoosing Not to ChooseClinical Dilemmas in PsychotherapyClinical EthicsCloningClose toYouCoercion as CureCoercive Treatment in PsychiatryCognition of Value in Aristotle's EthicsCognitive Disability and Its Challenge to Moral Philosophy Comfortably NumbCommonsense RebellionCommunicative Action and Rational ChoiceCompetence, Condemnation, and CommitmentComprehending CareConducting Insanity EvaluationsConfidential RelationshipsConfidentiality and Mental HealthConflict of Interest in the ProfessionsConsuming KidsContemporary Debates In Applied EthicsContemporary Debates in Moral TheoryContemporary Debates in Social PhilosophyContentious IssuesContesting PsychiatryCrazy in AmericaCreating CapabilitiesCreatures Like Us?Crime and CulpabilityCrime, Punishment, and Mental IllnessCritical Perspectives in Public HealthCritical PsychiatryCrueltyCultural Assessment in Clinical PsychiatryCutting to the CoreCyborg CitizenDamaged IdentitiesDeaf Identities in the MakingDeath Is That Man Taking NamesDebating Same-Sex MarriageDecision Making, Personhood and DementiaDecoding the Ethics CodeDefining DifferenceDefining Right and Wrong in Brain ScienceDefining the Beginning and End of LifeDelusions of GenderDementiaDemocracy in What State?Demons of the Modern WorldDescriptions and PrescriptionsDesert and VirtueDesire, Practical Reason, and the GoodDestructive Trends in Mental HealthDid My Neurons Make Me Do It?Difference and IdentityDigital HemlockDigital SoulDignityDisability BioethicsDisability, Difference, DiscriminationDisordered Personalities and CrimeDisorders of VolitionDisorientation and Moral LifeDivided Minds and Successive SelvesDoes Feminism Discriminate against Men?Does Torture Work?Double Standards in Medical Research in Developing CountriesDrugs and JusticeDworkin and His CriticsDying in the Twenty-First CenturyEarly WarningEconomics and Youth ViolenceEmbodied RhetoricsEmerging Conceptual, Ethical and Policy Issues in BionanotechnologyEmotional ReasonEmotions in the Moral LifeEmotions in the Moral LifeEmpathyEmpathy and Moral DevelopmentEmpathy and MoralityEmpirical Ethics in PsychiatryEncountering NatureEncountering the Sacred in PsychotherapyEngendering International HealthEnhancing EvolutionEnhancing Human CapacitiesEnoughEros and the GoodErotic InnocenceErotic MoralityEssays on Derek Parfit's On What MattersEssays on Free Will and Moral ResponsibilityEthical Choices in Contemporary MedicineEthical Conflicts in PsychologyEthical Dilemmas in PediatricsEthical Issues in Behavioral ResearchEthical Issues in Dementia CareEthical Issues in Forensic Mental Health ResearchEthical Issues in the New GeneticsEthical LifeEthical Reasoning for Mental Health ProfessionalsEthical TheoryEthical WillsEthically Challenged ProfessionsEthicsEthicsEthicsEthics and AnimalsEthics and ScienceEthics and the A PrioriEthics and the Discovery of the UnconsciousEthics and the Metaphysics of MedicineEthics at the CinemaEthics Case Book of the American Psychoanalytic AssociationEthics Done RightEthics ExpertiseEthics for EveryoneEthics for PsychologistsEthics for the New MillenniumEthics in CyberspaceEthics in Health CareEthics In Health Services ManagementEthics in Mental Health ResearchEthics in PracticeEthics in PsychiatryEthics in PsychologyEthics in Psychotherapy and CounselingEthics of PsychiatryEthics without OntologyEthics, Culture, and PsychiatryEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEvaluating the Science and Ethics of Research on HumansEvilEvil GenesEvil in Modern ThoughtEvil in Modern ThoughtEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolved MoralityExperiments in EthicsExploding the Gene MythExploiting ChildhoodFacing Human SufferingFact and ValueFaking ItFalse-Memory Creation in Children and AdultsFat ShameFatal FreedomFellow-Feeling and the Moral LifeFeminism and Its DiscontentsFeminist Ethics and Social and Political PhilosophyFeminist TheoryFinal ExamFirst Do No HarmFirst, Do No HarmFlashpointFlesh WoundsForced to CareForgivenessForgivenessForgiveness and LoveForgiveness and ReconciliationForgiveness and RetributionFoucault and the Government of DisabilityFoundational Issues in Human Brain MappingFoundations of Forensic Mental Health AssessmentFree WillFree Will And Moral ResponsibilityFree Will and Reactive AttitudesFree Will, Agency, and Meaning in LifeFree?Freedom and ValueFreedom vs. InterventionFriendshipFrom Darwin to HitlerFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Enlightenment to ReceptivityFrom Morality to Mental HealthFrom Silence to VoiceFrontiers of JusticeGender in the MirrorGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetics of Original SinGenetics of Original SinGenocide's AftermathGetting RealGluttonyGood WorkGoodness & AdviceGreedGroups in ConflictGrowing Up GirlGut FeminismHabilitation, Health, and AgencyHandbook for Health Care Ethics CommitteesHandbook of BioethicsHandbook of PsychopathyHappinessHappiness and the Good LifeHappiness Is OverratedHard FeelingsHard LuckHardwired BehaviorHarmful ThoughtsHeal & ForgiveHealing PsychiatryHealth Care Ethics for PsychologistsHeterosyncraciesHistorical and Philosophical Perspectives on Biomedical EthicsHoly WarHookedHookedHow Can I Be Trusted?How Propaganda WorksHow to Do Things with Pornography How to Make Opportunity EqualHow Universities Can Help Create a Wiser WorldHow We HopeHow We Think About DementiaHuman BondingHuman EnhancementHuman GoodnessHuman Identity and BioethicsHuman TrialsHumanism, What's That?Humanitarian ReasonHumanityHumanizing MadnessI am Not Sick I Don't Need Help!I Was WrongIdentifying Hyperactive ChildrenIf That Ever Happens to MeImproving Nature?In Defense of FloggingIn Defense of SinIn Love With LifeIn Our Own ImageIn the FamilyIn the Land of the DeafIn the Name of IdentityIn the Wake of 9/11In Two MindsInformed Consent in Medical ResearchInnovation in Medical TechnologyInside Assisted LivingInside EthicsIntelligence, Race, and GeneticsIntensive CareIs Human Nature Obsolete?Is Long-Term Therapy Unethical?Is There a Duty to Die?Is There an Ethicist in the House?Issues in Philosophical CounselingJudging Children As ChildrenJust a DogJust BabiesJust CareJustice for ChildrenJustice for HedgehogsJustice in RobesJustice, Luck, and KnowledgeJustifiable ConductKant on Moral AutonomyKant's Theory of VirtueKids of CharacterKilling McVeighLack of CharacterLack of CharacterLaw and the BrainLearning About School ViolenceLearning from Baby PLeaving YouLectures on the History of Political PhilosophyLegal and Ethical Aspects of HealthcareLegal Aspects of Mental CapacityLegal ConceptionsLegalizing ProstitutionLet Them Eat ProzacLevelling the Playing FieldLiberal Education in a Knowledge SocietyLiberal EugenicsLife After FaithLife at the BottomLife, Sex, and IdeasListening to the WhispersLiving ProfessionalismLosing Matt ShepardLostLuckyMad in AmericaMad PrideMadhouseMaking Another World PossibleMaking Babies, Making FamiliesMaking Genes, Making WavesMaking Sense of Freedom and ResponsibilityMalignantMasculinity Studies and Feminist TheoryMeaning and Moral OrderMeaning in LifeMeaning in Life and Why It MattersMeans, Ends, and PersonsMeans, Ends, and PersonsMedical Enhancement and PosthumanityMedical Research for HireMedicalized MasculinitiesMedically Assisted DeathMeditations for the HumanistMelancholia and MoralismMental Health Professionals, Minorities and the PoorMental Illness, Medicine and LawMerit, Meaning, and Human BondageMetaethical SubjectivismMill's UtilitarianismMind FieldsMind WarsMind WarsModern Theories of JusticeModernity and TechnologyMoney ShotMonsterMoral Acquaintances and Moral DecisionsMoral ClarityMoral CultivationMoral Development and RealityMoral Dilemmas in Real LifeMoral DimensionsMoral EntanglementsMoral FailureMoral LiteracyMoral MachinesMoral MindsMoral OriginsMoral Panics, Sex PanicsMoral ParticularismMoral PerceptionMoral PsychologyMoral Psychology: Volume IVMoral RealismMoral RelativismMoral RepairMoral Responsibility and Alternative PossibilitiesMoral Status and Human LifeMoral StealthMoral Theory at the MoviesMoral TribesMoral Value and Human DiversityMoral, Immoral, AmoralMoralismMorality and Self-InterestMorality in a Natural WorldMorality, Moral Luck and ResponsibilityMorals, Rights and Practice in the Human ServicesMorals, Rights and Practice in the Human ServicesMore Than HumanMotive and RightnessMovies and the Moral Adventure of LifeMurder in the InnMy Body PoliticMy Brain Made Me Do ItMy Sister's KeeperMy Sister's KeeperMy WayNano-Bio-EthicsNarrative MedicineNarrative ProsthesisNatural Ethical FactsNatural-Born CybogsNaturalized BioethicsNeither Bad nor MadNeoconservatismNeonatal BioethicsNeurobiology and the Development of Human MoralityNeuroethicsNeuroethicsNeuroethicsNew Takes in Film-PhilosophyNew Waves in EthicsNew Waves in MetaethicsNietzsche on Ethics and PoliticsNo Child Left DifferentNo Impact ManNormative EthicsNormativityNothing about us, without us!Oath BetrayedOf War and LawOn ApologyOn Being AuthenticOn EvilOn Human RightsOn The Stigma Of Mental IllnessOn the TakeOn Virtue EthicsOn What MattersOn What We Owe to Each OtherOne ChildOne Nation Under TherapyOne World NowOne World NowOur Bodies, Whose Property?Our Bodies, Whose Property?Our Daily MedsOur Faithfulness to the PastOur Posthuman FutureOut of EdenOut of Its MindOut of the ShadowsOverdosed AmericaOxford Handbook of Psychiatric EthicsOxford Textbook of Philosophy of PsychiatryPassionate DeliberationPatient Autonomy and the Ethics of ResponsibilityPC, M.D.Perfecting VirtuePersonal AutonomyPersonal Autonomy in SocietyPersonal Identity and EthicsPersonhood and Health CarePersons, Humanity, and the Definition of DeathPerspectives On Health And Human RightsPharmacracyPharmageddonPhilosophy and This Actual WorldPhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of Technology: The Technological ConditionPhysician-Assisted DyingPicturing DisabilityPilgrim at Tinker CreekPlaying God?Playing God?Political EmotionsPornlandPowerful MedicinesPractical Autonomy and BioethicsPractical EthicsPractical Ethics for PsychologistsPractical RulesPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic NeuroethicsPraise and BlamePreferences and Well-BeingPrimates and PhilosophersPro-Life, Pro-ChoiceProcreation and ParenthoodProfits Before People?Progress in BioethicsProperty in the BodyProzac As a Way of LifeProzac on the CouchPsychiatric Aspects of Justification, Excuse and Mitigation in Anglo-American Criminal Law Psychiatric EthicsPsychiatry and EmpirePsychological Concepts and Biological PsychiatryPsychology and Consumer CulturePsychology and LawPsychotropic Drug Prescriber's Survival GuidePublic Health LawPublic Health Law and EthicsPublic PhilosophyPunishing the Mentally IllPunishmentPursuits of WisdomPutting Morality Back Into PoliticsPutting on VirtueQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRaceRadical HopeRadical VirtuesRape Is RapeRe-creating MedicineRe-Engineering Philosophy for Limited BeingsReason's GriefReasonably ViciousReckoning With HomelessnessReconceiving Medical EthicsRecovery from SchizophreniaRedefining RapeRedesigning HumansReducing the Stigma of Mental IllnessReflections On How We LiveReframing Disease ContextuallyRefusing CareRefuting Peter Singer's Ethical TheoryRelative JusticeRelativism and Human RightsReligion ExplainedReprogeneticsRescuing JeffreyResponsibilityResponsibility and PsychopathyResponsibility and PunishmentResponsibility and PunishmentResponsibility from the MarginsResponsible GeneticsRethinking CommodificationRethinking Informed Consent in BioethicsRethinking Mental Health and DisorderRethinking RapeReturn to ReasonRevolution in PsychologyRightsRights, Democracy, and Fulfillment in the Era of Identity PoliticsRisk and Luck in Medical EthicsRobert NozickRousseau and the Dilemmas of Modernity Rule of Law, Misrule of MenRun, Spot, RunRunning on RitalinSatisficing and MaximizingSchizophrenia, Culture, and SubjectivityScience and EthicsScience in the Private InterestScience, Policy, and the Value-Free IdealScience, Seeds and CyborgsScratching the Surface of BioethicsSecular Philosophy and the Religious TemperamentSeeing the LightSelf-ConstitutionSelf-Made MadnessSelf-Trust and Reproductive AutonomySentimental RulesSex Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex OffendersSexual DevianceSexual EthicsSexual PredatorsSexualized BrainsShaping Our SelvesShock TherapyShould I Medicate My Child?ShunnedSick to Death and Not Going to Take It AnymoreSickoSide EffectsSidewalk StoriesSister CitizenSkeptical FeminismSocial Inclusion of People with Mental IllnessSocial JusticeSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsSome We Love, Some We Hate, Some We EatSovereign VirtueSpeech MattersSpiral of EntrapmentSplit DecisionsSticks and StonesStories MatterSubjectivity and Being SomebodySuffering, Death, and IdentitySuicide ProhibitionSurgery JunkiesSurgically Shaping ChildrenTaking Morality SeriouslyTaming the Troublesome ChildTechnology and the Good Life?TestimonyText and Materials on International Human RightsThe Aims of Higher EducationThe Almost MoonThe Altruistic BrainThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Forensic PsychiatryThe Animal ManifestoThe Art of LivingThe Autonomy of MoralityThe Beloved SelfThe Best Things in LifeThe Big FixThe Bioethics ReaderThe Biology and Psychology of Moral AgencyThe Blackwell Guide to Medical EthicsThe Body SilentThe BondThe Book of LifeThe Burden of SympathyThe Cambridge Companion to Virtue EthicsThe Cambridge Companion to Virtue EthicsThe Cambridge Textbook of BioethicsThe Case against Assisted SuicideThe Case Against PerfectionThe Case Against PunishmentThe Case for PerfectionThe Case of Terri SchiavoThe Challenge of Human RightsThe Code for Global EthicsThe Colonization Of Psychic SpaceThe Commercialization of Intimate LifeThe Common ThreadThe Connected SelfThe Constitution of AgencyThe Creation of PsychopharmacologyThe Criminal BrainThe Decency WarsThe Difficult-to-Treat Psychiatric PatientThe Disability PendulumThe Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to ConfrontationThe Domain of ReasonsThe Double-Edged HelixThe Duty to ProtectThe Emotional Construction of MoralsThe End of Ethics in a Technological SocietyThe End of Stigma?The Essentials of New York Mental Health LawThe Ethical BrainThe Ethical Dimensions of the Biological and Health SciencesThe Ethics of BioethicsThe Ethics of ParenthoodThe Ethics of SightseeingThe Ethics of the FamilyThe Ethics of the LieThe Ethics of TransplantsThe Ethics ToolkitThe Evolution of Mental Health LawThe Evolution of MoralityThe FamilyThe Fat Studies ReaderThe Forgiveness ProjectThe Form of Practical KnowledgeThe Fountain of YouthThe Freedom ParadoxThe Future of Assisted Suicide and EuthanasiaThe Future of Human NatureThe Good BookThe Good LifeThe Great BetrayalThe Handbook of Disability StudiesThe Healing VirtuesThe High Price of MaterialismThe History of Human RightsThe HorizonThe Idea of JusticeThe Ideal of NatureThe Illusion of Freedom and EqualityThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Importance of Being UnderstoodThe Insanity OffenseThe Joy of SecularismThe Language PoliceThe Last Normal ChildThe Last UtopiaThe Limits of MedicineThe LobotomistThe Love CureThe Lucifer EffectThe Manual of EpictetusThe Mark of ShameThe Meaning of NiceThe Medicalization of SocietyThe Merck DruggernautThe Mind Has MountainsThe Modern Art of DyingThe Modern SavageThe Moral ArcThe Moral BrainThe Moral Demands of MemoryThe Moral FoolThe Moral MindThe Moral Psychology HandbookThe Moral, Social, and Commercial Imperatives of Genetic Testing and ScreeningThe Most Good You Can DoThe Myth of ChoiceThe Myth of the Moral BrainThe Nature of NormativityThe New Disability HistoryThe New Genetic MedicineThe New Religious IntoleranceThe Offensive InternetThe Origins of FairnessThe Oxford Handbook of Animal EthicsThe Oxford Handbook of Ethics at the End of LifeThe Perfect BabyThe Philosophy of NeedThe Philosophy of PornographyThe Philosophy of PsychiatryThe Politics Of LustThe Portable Ethicist for Mental Health Professionals The Power of Religion in the Public SphereThe Price of PerfectionThe Price of TruthThe Problem of PunishmentThe Prosthetic ImpulseThe Psychology of Good and EvilThe Psychology of Good and EvilThe PsychopathThe Purity MythThe Pursuit of PerfectionThe Relevance of Philosophy to LifeThe Right Road to Radical FreedomThe Right to Be ParentsThe Righteous MindThe Root of All EvilThe Rules of InsanityThe Second SexismThe Second-Person StandpointThe Silent World of Doctor and PatientThe Sleep of ReasonThe Social Psychology of Good and EvilThe Social Psychology of MoralityThe Social Psychology of MoralityThe Speed of DarkThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Story of Cruel and UnusualThe Story WithinThe Stubborn System of Moral ResponsibilityThe Suicide TouristThe Terrible GiftThe Theory of OptionsThe Therapy of DesireThe Trauma of Psychological TortureThe Trauma of Psychological TortureThe Triple HelixThe Trolley Problem MysteriesThe Trouble with DiversityThe Truth About the Drug CompaniesThe Ugly LawsThe Varieties of Religious ExperienceThe Virtue of Defiance and Psychiatric EngagementThe Virtues of HappinessThe Virtuous Life in Greek EthicsThe Virtuous PsychiatristThe Voice of Breast Cancer in Medicine and BioethicsThe War Against BoysThe War for Children's MindsThe Whole ChildThe Woman RacketThe Worldwide Practice of TortureTherapy with ChildrenThieves of VirtueThree Generations, No ImbecilesTimes of Triumph, Times of DoubtTolerance Among The VirtuesTolerance and the Ethical LifeTolerationToxic PsychiatryTrauma, Truth and ReconciliationTreatment Kind and FairTrusting on the EdgeTry to RememberUltimate JudgementUnborn in the USA: Inside the War on AbortionUndermining ScienceUnderstanding AbortionUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding EmotionsUnderstanding EvilUnderstanding Moral ObligationUnderstanding Physician-Pharmaceutical Industry InteractionsUnderstanding TerrorismUnderstanding the GenomeUnderstanding the Stigma of Mental IllnessUnderstanding Treatment Without ConsentUnhingedUnprincipled VirtueUnsanctifying Human Life: Essays on EthicsUnspeakable Acts, Ordinary PeopleUp in FlamesUpheavals of ThoughtUsers and Abusers of PsychiatryValue-Free Science?Values and Psychiatric DiagnosisValues in ConflictVegetarianismViolence and Mental DisorderVirtue EthicsVirtue, Rules, and JusticeVirtue, Vice, and PersonalityVirtues and Their VicesWar Against the WeakWar, Torture and TerrorismWarrior's DishonourWeaknessWelfare and Rational CareWhat Genes Can't DoWhat Have We DoneWhat Is a Human?What Is Good and WhyWhat Is Good and WhyWhat Is the Good Life?What Price Better Health?What Should I Do?What We Owe to Each OtherWhat Would Aristotle Do?What's Good on TVWhat's Normal?What's Wrong with Children's RightsWhat's Wrong with Homosexuality?What's Wrong With Morality?When Is Discrimination Wrong?Who Holds the Moral High Ground?Who Owns YouWho Qualifies for Rights?Whose America?Whose View of Life?Why Animals MatterWhy Animals MatterWhy I Burned My Book and Other Essays on DisabilityWhy Not Kill Them All?Why Punish? How Much?Why Some Things Should Not Be for SaleWisdom, Intuition and EthicsWithout ConscienceWomen and Borderline Personality DisorderWomen and MadnessWondergenesWould You Kill the Fat Man?Wrestling with Behavioral GeneticsWriting About PatientsYou Must Be DreamingYour Genetic DestinyYour Inner FishYouth Offending and Youth Justice Yuck!
Rita Charon describes narrative medicine as a clinical practice, "defined as medicine practiced with the narrative competence to recognize, absorb, interpret, and be moved by the stories of illness." The idea of narrative medicine is a fine one: emphasize the role of narrative (and thus meanings, life histories, and emotions) in medicine, and especially physician-patient interactions. It's a fundamentally humanist approach, with the goal of treating the whole person rather than the disease. Charon is the driving force behind narrative medicine, and by all accounts she is a tireless advocate, knowledgeable and passionate about her cause. She has been editor-in-chief of the journal Literature and Medicine. The whole of narrative medicine is non-reductionist, nuanced and interdisciplinary. So there's a great deal to like about the project. What's more, all the reviews I have found of Narrative Medicine have been positive, and mostly glowing.
Yet the first time I tried, I found Charon's book almost impossible to read the whole way through, not because it uses difficult concepts or language, but largely because I found it so unclear what narrative medicine is meant to be, and what claims she is making. Often, different theorists and traditions rush by in a few sentences, and she lumps together ideas that do not fit well together. When her claims are clear, they often seem inconsequential or mundane. All through the book, Charon assumes that narrative is a positive force, and that once doctors pay attention to it, care will be improved. She pays remarkably little attention to how narratives often limit people, reinforce existing power structures, and offer an impoverished way of living. While she occasionally mentions post-structuralism or post-modernism, she does not discuss the need to struggle against language and meaning. My strongest disagreement with Charon's admirers is over her writing style: several other reviews mention her fine style, yet most of the book is full of jargon with a portentous air, needlessly peppering her paragraphs with quotations from other authors, when she could say what she intends much more simply and directly. The style is no worse than most academic books, but it is no better either.
A friend of mine asked me about the book since I was carrying around it with me, and I explained its basic ideas. He commented that most doctors would find its proposals ridiculous: they already have pressures on their time, and they do not want to be having patients tell them their life stories. I found myself defending Charon's ideas, arguing that narrative medicine could improve clinical practice and could even be more efficient, since it would improve patient compliance with doctor's orders, and it could avoid misunderstanding between the doctor and patient. More fundamentally, we do need a health care practice in which the doctor recognizes the full humanity of the patient and does not treat the disease. A visit with a physician should not make one feel like a car being taken to an auto-mechanic.
Charon's goals are admirable. The question is whether narrative medicine can achieve those goals. In particular, we need to ask whether it can address psychological, sociological, and ethical issues in medicine, and especially those relevant to the patient-physician relationship, in a coherent way. The skeptical worry it faces is that it is just a catchy gimmick that deemphasizes the science in psychology and sociology and that depoliticizes our understanding of medical problems. Indeed, we may worry that it simply adds confusion. One might compare George Engel's biopsychosocial model of medicine, to which most textbooks in psychiatry and clinical psychology pay lip service, but which has not has not done much to help us combine psychological and sociological aspects of a patient's condition. It serves as a prod to consider non-biological aspects of a case, but that's about it; clinicians are left on their own in working out how to combine them. Engel's work was certainly a useful episode in modern medicine, but to call his approach a "model" is really an exaggeration. Similarly, we might similarly worry that narrative medicine might add up to no more than a reminder that it is helpful for doctors to listen to patients and to tell their own stories to each other. Of course, doctors should listen to patients and each other, but we knew that already.
So how does Charon set out narrative medicine, and does she provide an apparatus that manages to meet this challenge and worries? She divides the narrative features of medicine into five categories: temporarility, singularity, causality/contingency, intersubjectivity, and ethicality -- the awkwardness of these labels is a good example of the difficulty that Charon's text presents. These categories do provide a way to think about stories, but they are so loosely defined that they are just place-holders; one could use a range of other labels just as well. One might suggest, for example, context, events, consequences, love, and hope. Nothing is ruled out.
One of Charon's practical contributions is the invention of the "Parallel Chart," in which doctors write down their experiences and stories in treating patients that they cannot put on the standard patient's chart. Charon claims that such writing is intensely valuable for doctors and gives several examples.
Charon seems to embrace every theory she has ever encountered. Everyone has a valuable perspective and something important to say. This may be a wonderfully inclusive vision, but it is cloying. It also means that there's almost nothing distinctive about the idea of narrative medicine except its main claim that stories help.
The only time Charon makes critical comments about a theory is in her chapter on ethics, where she shows disdain for the limitations of conventional bioethics and especially principlist bioethics. She argues that narrative bioethics has a distinct advantage in its display of respect for attention, representation, and affiliation, the three movements of narrative medicine. She paints a picture of an alliance between her work that that in "feminist ethics, communitarian ethics, liberation ethics, hermeneutical ethics, casuistry, virtue ethics, and care ethics" (208), since "these complexly differing approaches share a commitment to narrative truth and to the power of telling and listening." (ibid.) Charon never explains why these approaches have a greater commitment to narrative than Kantian ethics or utilitarianism, or indeed how narrative ethics does any better at arriving at solutions than standard bioethics.
While Charon several times mentions approvingly work in post-structuralism and psychoanalysis, she does not seem to take on board the implications of those movements for the limitations of narrative. Consider Hilde Lindemann Nelson's important work Damaged Identities, Narrative Repair (2001). While Charon is concerned almost exclusively with the healing power of narrative, Nelson spells out how narrative can be co-opted to oppress and limit people's lives, and how telling the truth about one's life is far from simple. The concepts with which we build our narratives may themselves be problematic, and we may need to work to formulate alternative approaches. In literary theory and sociology, there's considerable work being done on counter-narratives. Yet Charon never addresses these concerns directly, preferring to focus on a happier humanistic notion of narrative, and this is an important limitation of her approach.
So Charon's book is best not seen as a careful assessment of the value and limits of narrative in medicine, but rather a passionate work of praise and celebration of narrative. Its ideal readers are doctors who are looking for an alternative to reductionist medical approaches, and who want a medicine that sees into people's souls, acknowledging their suffering and their strengths, with room for their spirituality. The book gives a reasonably detailed impression of a way of doing narrative medicine, and it has a good collection of stories of physicians and patients. However, the case for the transformation of current medicine into narrative medicine has yet to be made.
Link: The Program in Narrative Medicine, Columbia University
© 2009 Christian Perring
Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.