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Med Health Care Philos. 2005;8(2):165-71.

The expert patient: Illness as practice.

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Centre for Applied Ethics, University of Wales Cardiff, P.O. Box 94, CF10 3XB Cardiff, UK.


This paper responds to the Expert Patient initiative by questioning its over-reliance on instrumental forms of reasoning. It will be suggested that expertise of the patient suffering from chronic illness should not be exclusively seen in terms of a model of technical knowledge derived from the natural sciences, but should rather include an awareness of the hermeneutic skills that the patient needs in order to make sense of their illness and the impact that the illness has upon their sense of self-identity. By appealing to MacIntyre's concepts of "virtue" and "practice", as well as Frank's notion of the "wounded story-teller", it will be argued that chronic illness can be constituted as a practice, by building a culture of honest and courageous story-telling about the experience of chronic suffering. The building of such a practice will renew the cultural resources available to the patient, the physician and the rest of the community in understanding illness and patient-hood.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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