Subtitled "What happens when patients find out how good their doctors really are," this article starts with an important statement: "Every illness is a story, and Annie Page's began with the kinds of small unexceptional details that mean nothing until seen in hindsight."

This is the introduction to a look at a child with cystic fibrosis and how her family sought the best care for her.

The author, Dr. Atul Gawande, goes on not only to tell their story but also the story of the way in which the understanding of this disorder has increased and the unusual rigor with which centers that specialize in the disease are evaluated.

He also includes stories of other sufferers to emphasize the importance of surveillance of their care.

These stories allow him to generalize about the way physicians' care is evaluated in general by the public and our medical organizations and how difficult it is to be at the high end of the Bell Curve. The author concludes, "When the stakes are our lives and the lives of our children, we expect averageness to be resisted."


This is a very interesting article published in the Annals of Medicine section of the New Yorker magazine so it is an excellent example of what Rita Charon terms "lay exposition"--essays to instruct the lay public ["Narrative Medicine: Form, Function, and Ethics." Annals of Internal Medicine vol.134, no.1 (January 2, 2001) pp. 83-87.]

It was used as an assignment in a course for senior medical students, "Medicine, Literature and Law."

The students appreciated it not only because its message is timely but also because the author used patient stories to introduce an important concept for physicians, especially those who are just ready to embark on their post graduate experiences.

Primary Source

The New Yorker


Condé Nast

Place Published

New York



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