Current medical teaching neglects the tale the patient tells or fails to tell. I offer evidence suggesting that such tales or narratives are central to medicine. Readers are invited to consider the evidence whether they are students in the health or social sciences, practioners, teachers, insurance adjusters, lawyers, judges, health planners or general readers. In an age of technical advance the book reveals that fragmented professions fail people whose health problems may be multiple of chronic. Health professionals must return to basic principles, particularly to listening, essential both for diagnosis and for healing.
All of us may learn from the wonder and breadth and value of patient's tales in the first section, while the amazing past is revealed in the second. In the final section the value of teaching in the community is noted. The curious story of "whiplash" reveals the extraordinary bias of some researchers and teachers leading to fundamental errors and waste. Truly medicine has its shadows to contrast its light. Finally, family doctors can be recognised as a valued and too often underused resource.
"Dr. Livingston describes his experiences in a readable style. His stories are fascinating and the problems some of them address are profound. In particular, there is the vivid account of the difficulties facing a physician with a patient in a medical crisis who refuses, on religious grounds, conventional treatment. Livingston traces medicine's link with literature throughout history in delightful sketches of Chekov and others."
Donald B. Calne, O.C., D.M.
Professor of Neurology Emeritus
University of British Columbia, Canada