Disease, Rehabilitation and Pain

Authored by: Julie Anderson

The Routledge History of Disease

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415720014
eBook ISBN: 9781315543420
Adobe ISBN: 9781134857876


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In 1955, The Lancet reported on the case of a ‘chronic’ female patient who had been hospitalised for 20 years. During that time, the patient had been moved to several different hospitals until she arrived at the West Middlesex Hospital, where she was given 30 weeks of rehabilitative treatment, and from there sent to a welfare home. 1 The article notes the ‘scanty records’ that accompanied the patient, and criticised ‘the negative therapeutic approach that cost the patient 20 years of freedom.’ 2 The patient’s hospital record did not outline her history or treatment regime, and did not offer her a way to articulate her experience, although she was interviewed during her 30 weeks of rehabilitation. For historians, details of the therapeutic experience provide vital information about patients, including their length of stay, the types of treatment they received, and their responses to it. Gerald Kutcher argues that the case study provides ‘a counter story to the grand narratives of medical researchers and has much to tell us about the anecdotal character of clinical trials, the suffering and courage of patients as well as ethical behaviour’. 3 For many patients, their painful and alienating or positive and life-changing experiences of rehabilitation were articulated through the medical practitioner.

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