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Searching for the Patient’s Presence in Medical Case Reports


Magdalena Zabielska

The book addresses the issue of the patient’s presence in specialist medical publications in the context of a patient-centered approach to medical practice. The author combines both quantitative and qualitative approaches in order to analyze the discourse about the patient in one of the oldest medical genres, case reports. She traces textual references to patients throughout the reports to show that their nature and frequency depend both on the structure of the genre and the context of the production of these texts. The author touches upon the topical issue that although specialist communication may seem to exclude patients, it does not mean it does not concern them. Indeed, they are written about and it appears critical how this is done.
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It is a truism, yet universally acknowledged, that medicine has played a fundamental role in people’s lives. Medicine concerns their health which conditions their functioning in society. It is medical professionals and their expertise that patients trust their lives with when they are ailing. That communication between doctors and patients is the key to success of treatment seems another truism, especially in the light of the recent substantial body of research into health communication. These issues appear to be of particular relevance in the era of European citizenship and mass migration of people. Yet, there is another type of communication, possibly less prominent but not less interesting to analyze. It is restricted to medical community and it aims at sharing medical knowledge. This communication may seem to exclude patients but it does not mean it does not concern them. They are written about and it appears critical how this is done.

The present work seeks to examine how patients are portrayed in professional medical texts. In more detail, the research question is whether patients are presented as subjects or objects of medical study and practice, or, in other words, whether they are imaged as whole persons and experiencing individuals in the descriptions of diagnosis and treatment. To this aim, a corpus of medical case reports from British and American journals available online has been analyzed paying special attention to the textual presence or absence of patients in the accounts of diseases and medical procedures, and possible explanations for...

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