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Humanity in the Face of Illness and Metaphor [Seminar 4]

·1 min·

Reflection questions for resident-led discussion with our guest faculty:

  1. The metaphor of “war” is used when discussing plagues. Compare and contrast these two human experiences. Do you think it is an apt comparison? 

  2. How do tragedies like disease and illness humanize us? How do they dehumanize us?

  3. Do you agree with the statement “Behind the question ‘why make people patients?’ there lies a belief that patients are created by doctors” (pp 81, “Why make people patients”)? Why or why not? 

  4. Does illness have a mythology? What language or mythologizing have you seen surrounding diseases such as cancer?

Selected key quotes from the readings: forthcoming


Camus, Albert. The Plague / La Peste (excerpt), 1947.
“Coronavirus divides one family in China while driving another closer together” (NBC News)
“Love in the time of coronavirus” (Washington Post)
Marinker, Marshall. “Why make people patients?” Journal of Medical Ethics. 1(2):81-84, 1975.
Peabody, Francis. “The Care of the Patient” JAMA. 88:877-882, (1927).
Sontag, Susan. Illness as Metaphor (excerpt), 1978.
Illness as Metaphor - Summary/Annotation by Jack Coulehan (NYU LitMed Database)
“Close Reading: The Signature Method of Narrative Medicine” (Chapter 7, Principles and Practice of Narrative Medicine)