Narrative Medicine- the Human Touch in Treatment : In typical medical practice, Infertility in particular, it is important that doctors listen to patients and interpret what they say regarding bodily experiences and health fears. Pain, suffering, worry, anguish and the feeling that something isn’t right – are hard to put down in words. So, patients have a difficult task‘telling’ the doctor, while doctors have a difficult task to ‘listen’.

‘Narrative Medicine’ a phrase coined by Dr. Rita Charon, is all about doctors spending time listening and empathizing with their patients as they share their stories. In an increasingly tech-driven and impersonal world where modern technology, superior medical imaging, robotic surgery and the sheer volume of patients have changed the face of medicine, there are certain things that have fallen by the way side – the human touch, the bond between the doctor and patient, and the hand-holding through times of ill health. 

As doctors become more and more data-driven, with lab results and scan findings getting more importance, they maintain a clinical distance from their patients and do not have a detailed dialogue on the patient’s health concerns, or listen to the patient’s narrative, by giving it the importance that it deserves. 

Narrative Medicine – 

a) helps doctors in making accurate clinical decisions; 

b) conveys the commitment and compassion of the clinician towards the patient; and 

c) increases the likelihood of enhancing the trust on the doctor thereby making the patient do what the doctor recommends. 

Most of all,it helps to make doctors more empathetic, encouraging them to treat the patient as a person (and not a file) in the context of a de-humanizing system.

Found it interesting and thought it necessary to share the concept and magical effects of ‘Narrative Medicine’ as expounded by Dr. Rita Charon, Professor of Clinical Medicine, and Director of the Program in Narrative Medicine at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. (Information drawn from the write up by Sudha Umashanker published in The Hindu, March 9, 2014)

Managing Director
MOMSOON Fertility & IVF Centre, Bangalore