Narrative ethics, narrative structure

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

By 1999, when Atul Gawande's essay "Whose Body Is It, Anyway?" appeared in The New Yorker, patient autonomy had largely trumped physician paternalism in American medical practice. Gawande uses the stories of actual patients to attempt his counter case for physicians' "talking patients through their decisions." Toward the end of his essay, Gawande acknowledges that "many ethicists find this line of reasoning disturbing," but he reassures his readers that "the real task isn't to banish paternalism; the real task is to preserve kindness." What troubles me, however, is not so much the ethical position Gawande takes but the way he structures his narrative to support his position. "Whose Body Is It, Anyway?" offers an important example for close scrutiny because, in my experience, it so effectively engages readers-especially medical students-and persuades them to accept the ethical position it puts forward. Yet Gawande's own reflections about this issue do not stop with this essay. As he has gained clinical experience, he has continued his ethical reflections, and the stories that he tells have changed significantly over the years. I will argue here that close reading and careful narrative scrutiny can alert those who read this essay apart from Gawande's later work to some of the pitfalls in this kind of narrative ethics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHastings Center Report
Volume44
Issue numberSUPPL.1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Narration
Paternalism
moral philosophy
narrative
paternalism
Ethicists
Physicians
physician
Medical Students
Reading
medical practice
medical student
experience
autonomy
Narrative Ethics
Narrative Structure
Scrutiny
Reader

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health Policy
  • Philosophy

Cite this

Narrative ethics, narrative structure. / Jones, Anne.

In: Hastings Center Report, Vol. 44, No. SUPPL.1, 01.2014.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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