Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Education And Debate Narrative based medicine

Why study narrative?

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 02 January 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:48

Rapid Response:

A lesson told long ago

Dres Greenhalgh and Hurwitz are to be congratulated to this excellent
paper. It echos back what was known to our predesessors in medicine:
listen to the patient, let him talk, and write it down the way (s)he
expresses it. There is no doubt that lab tests and further imaging
procedures produce an 'objective' picture of the illness of the patient;
however, as nicely laid out in the case of the diabetic patient, one must
listen carefully. In the old days, doctors had the time to sit down with
patients and listen to them. Today, time is short, making it 'valuable'. I
am collecting old textbooks of Medicine which sometimes give you a glimpse
of this narrative approach - there was not that much to write on lab tests
and other investigations. One could witness this loss in the East of
Germany: after the unification, the elder doctors were quite proficient in
art of taking a history with the narrative approach. With the advent of
the 'modern' medicine, it is all gone...

Competing interests: No competing interests

14 January 1999
Matthias Löhr
Ass. Professor; Attending Physician
Univ. of Rostock, Germany