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Autopathography and humane medicine: The diving bell and the butterfly—an interpretation
  1. P J Kearney
  1. Mercy University Hospital, Cork, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 P J Kearney
 Paediatrics and Child Health, University College Cork, Cork, Republic of Ireland; p.kearney{at}


Autopathographies are an expanding genre of books and articles that are a potential resource for students interested in the medical humanities. New curricula emphasise the need to familiarise medical students with the patient’s point of view. Different specialities compete for the student’s attention and the medical humanities are not an exception. Some form of assessment is necessary to reflect the importance of the patient’s perspective. One way may be to request students analyse their chosen autopathography. The article presents an example based on one of the better know accounts. The identified themes reflect the sudden disruption in the author’s biography. The topics are connected to the medical disorder and illustrated by quotations. The different categories of autopathography can be helpful in understanding the author’s perspective. In this instance the author was a full time editor before his stroke. The style of the book employs professional distance from the narrative. This is more compatible with the description of metapathography rather than the original classification of autopathogrphies as religious, angry or alternative.

  • autopathography
  • medical education
  • locked-in syndrome
  • patient perspective
  • medical student assessment
  • narrative-based medicine

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  • Competing interests: None declared.