Contemporary health care often lacks generosity of spirit, even when treatment is most efficient. Too many patients are left unhappy with how they are treated, and too many medical professionals feel estranged from the calling that drew them to medicine. Arthur W. Frank
tells the stories of ill people, doctors, and nurses who are restoring generosity to medicine—generosity toward others and to themselves.
“The Renewal of Generosity” evokes medicine as the face-to-face encounter that comes before and after diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, and surgeries. Frank calls upon the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, and literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin to reflect on stories of ill people, doctors, and nurses who transform demoralized medicine into caring relationships. He presents their stories as a source of consolation for both ill and professional alike and as an impetus to changing medical systems. Frank shows how generosity is being renewed through “dialogue” that is more than the exchange of information. Dialogue is an ethic and an ideal for people on both sides of the medical encounter who want to offer more to those they meet and who want their own lives enriched in the process.
“The Renewal of Generosity” views illness and medical work with grace and compassion, making an invaluable contribution to expanding our vision of suffering and healing.
Through engaging narratives of illness, medical work, and nursing in which people choose to act in ways that affirm their humanity, “The Renewal of Generosity” depicts the transformation of demoralized medicine into caring relationships through generosity—generosity towards both others and oneself. Arthur Frank demonstrates how generosity is renewed through dialogue, and he also distinguishes authentic dialogue from mere talk. For Frank, medicine is the face-to-face encounter that comes before and after pharmaceuticals, surgeries, and diagnostics. His is a book for people on both sides of the medical encounter who want to offer more to those they meet, and who want a more enriching experience for themselves. A work of enormous grace and compassion, “The Renewal of Generosity” expands our vision of illness and healing.
“This reflection is starkly honest and never pedantic or condescending. . . . Through a rich telling of stories and reflection on them, Frank conducts a complex symphony of ideas about medicine with writing from a wide range of authors that models how readers might enact and experience the complex, subtle meaning of generosity and gratitude in their own practices. . . . Physicians should rush to read this book, and I hope that patients will join them.”—George J. Agich, “New England Journal of Medicine
Arthur W. Frank
is professor of sociology at the University of Calgary. He is the author of At the Will of the Body: Reflections on Illness and The Wounded Storyteller, the latter published by the University of Chicago Press.