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‘Is she experiencing any pain?’: disability and the physician−patient relationship

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In this essay, I reflect on my experience as a multiple sclerosis patient in order to identify some of the unique challenges that chronic disability poses in the physician−patient relationship. I suggest that it is important to broaden the goals of the clinical encounter to incorporate personal (as opposed to simply bodily) well-being, to be aware of the manner in which chronic disability affects decisions regarding treatment, to recognize the import of physical and attitudinal barriers and to acknowledge that patients with chronic disabilities have an ‘expert’ knowledge of bodily experience. I also suggest that chronic disability provides an exceptional opportunity with respect to the relationship between doctors and patients. (Intern Med J 2004; 34: 645−647)
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Keywords: chronic illness; disability; multiple sclerosis; physician−patient relationship

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Philosophy Department, Baylor University, Waco, Texas, USA

Publication date: 2004-11-01

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