Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing, and the Human Condition

About the Course:

Dr. Arthur Kleinman addresses The Illness Narratives to patients, families, and medical practitioners who grapple each day with chronic illness. He gives detailed case studies that draw on his practice as a psychiatrist as well as his cross-cultural work in medical anthropology to show the ways in which traditional medical approaches that work well with acute illness fall far short when applied to chronic illness. By addressing the meaning of illness to the chronic patient, the medical practitioner is able to interpret the illness experience in ways that remoralize the patient and help him or her deal victoriously with the challenges chronic pain and functional impairment bring to daily life.


Kleinman, Arthur, M.D.

About the Author:

Arthur Kleinman, M.D., is a psychiatrist at the Harvard Medical School and in The Cambridge Hospital. He is also Professor of Social Medicine and the Presley Professor of Medical Anthropology at Harvard University. His interests include depression, chronic illness, human suffering and its amelioration, and the cross-cultural experience of illness, particularly in China and the United States .

Course Objectives:

  1. Distinguish between the concepts of illness and disease as they apply to patients, families, and medical practitioners

  2. Outline some of the differences in the cross-cultural perception of chronic illness.

  3. Describe ways in which care of the chronically ill can be improved by a focus on the different meanings of illness.

  4. Differentiate between less frequent variants of chronic disease, such as malingering, conversion, hypochondriasis, and factitious disorder.

  5. Discuss the limitations of the interrogative method with chronically ill patients and offer alternatives that optimize appropriate treatment of the chronically ill.

Exam Questions

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