Humanizing Difficult Patients.

There is someone working to help people better understand the minds of doctors and patients.

I mean, someone other than me. And the doctor-memoirists whose books I review. (By the way, I am still reading Melvin Konner’s Becoming a Doctor, but it’s dense okay? That, and I have a new Pretty Little Liars obsession…)

Anyway, the person I am talking about is Boston psychiatrist Elissa Ely, who writes periodically for The Boston Globe and The New York Times, and occasionally appears on NPR. Though Ely sometimes writes generally about psychiatry and humankind, it’s her patient profiles that are the most intriguing.

Mental illness is something that constantly needs humanizing, and Ely’s insights, coupled with her melodic writing style, are pitch-perfect. She offers empathy to her subjects without excusing their behaviour. She doesn’t pretend she understands when she is faced with a particularly baffling case, and she isn’t afraid to admit her mistakes.

For example, in “A Stable Doctor for a Scattered Life” she writes about a man with limited intellectual capabilities, many different diagnoses for psychological disorders, and no regular physician. He requests an outdated drug with notoriously horrible side-effects, and Ely, not fully understanding her patient, gives it to him.

The piece manages to offer insight into the patient, the doctor, and the difficulties and ethical dilemmas in psychiatry. All in a spare 66o words.

To read the magic for yourself, click here.

Other notable Ely pieces include “A Subtle Shift of a Dilemma” and “A Life Apart, Without a Home, Friends or Regrets


2 thoughts on “Humanizing Difficult Patients.

  1. I liked the optimism of her story but I’m not entirely sure I got the point. It seemed incomplete, I want to know more about Harold!
    P.s. I like the pretty little liars injection

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