Johanna Shapiro, PhD
Several scholarly trends, such as narrative medicine, patient-centered and relationship-centered care, have long advocated for the value of the patient’s voice in the practice of medicine. As theories of textual analysis are applied to the understanding of stories of illness, doctors and scholars have the opportunity to develop more nuanced and multifaceted appreciation for these accounts. We realize, for example, that a patient’s story is rarely “just a story,” but is rather the conscious and unconscious representation and performance of intricate personal motives and dominant meta-narrative influences. Overall, this complexifying of narrative is beneficial as it reduces readers’ and listeners’ naive assumptions about reliability and authenticity. However, the growing body of scholarship contesting various aspects of personal narratives may have the unintended effect of de-legitimizing the patient’s voice because of concerns regarding its trustworthiness.