A BRIEF TAKE ON GENETIC SCREENING

DOES MEDICINE INCREASE A PATIENT’S ABILITY TO WRITE HER OWN LIFE?

by Richard Powers

HISTORY OF CURRENT COMPLAINT:

A forty-seven-year-old white male, 6' 4", 165 pounds, new to this service, presents with chronic belief that medicine and narrative are inextricably linked. Patient has no history of delusional disorder and claims to be on no present medication.

And then what happened?

From the earliest campfire fable, this question has united hearers and tellers, doctors and patients, readers and writers. And from the earliest diagnostic chart, our need to know What happens next? has slammed up against that classic source of dramatic tension: knowing what’s coming does not shield us from living it.

We humans remember in story, anticipate in story, dream, explain, learn, and love in story. As patients, we grow ill and recover, rally and fade, all experienced as narrative excursions inside wider story frames. So it hardly diminishes the rigorous, empirical, and context-free nature of medical diagnostics to say that medical practice is a narrative art. From taking the history and physical to signing off on the postmortem notes, doctors read, and then help arrange, relevant clinical data into a series of causes and effects that forms a linear, time-driven story. Diagnosis and treatment are sometimes a detective novel, sometimes a domestic drama, sometimes a good old psychological character sketch.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

Richard Powers’s ninth novel, The Echo Maker, will be published in October by FSG.

STAY CONNECTED
News on Facebook Photos on Instagram Stuff on Pinterest Announcements by RSS Sounds on Soundcloud Exclusives on Tumblr Updates on Twitter

Subscribe to our mailing list