My Imaginary Illness

My Imaginary Illness

A Journey Into Uncertainty and Prejudice in Medical Diagnosis

Book - 2010
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At age twenty-one, Chloë Atkins began suffering from a mysterious illness, the symptoms of which rapidly worsened. Paralyzed for months at a time, she frequently required intubation and life support. She eventually became quadriplegic, dependent both on a wheelchair and on health professionals who refused to believe there was anything physically wrong with her. When test after test returned inconclusive results, Atkins's doctors pronounced her symptoms psychosomatic. Atkins was told not only that she was going to die but also that this was her own fault; they concluded she was so emotionally deranged that she was willing her own death.

My Imaginary Illness is the compelling story of Atkins's decades-long battle with a disease deemed imaginary, her frustration with a succession of doctors and diagnoses, her immersion in the world of psychotherapy, and her excruciating physical and emotional journey back to wellness. As both a political theorist and patient, Atkins provides a narrative critique of contemporary medicine and its problematic handling of uncertainty and of symptoms that are not easily diagnosed or known. She convincingly illustrates that medicine's belief in evidence-based practice does not mean that individual doctors are capable of objectivity, nor that the presence of biomedical ethics invokes ethical practices in hospitals and clinics. A foreword by Bonnie Blair O'Connor, who teaches medical students how to listen to patients, and a clinical commentary by Dr. Brian David Hodges, a professor of psychiatry, enrich the book's narrative with practical guidance for medical practitioners and patients alike.

Publisher: Ithaca : ILR Press, 2010.
ISBN: 9780801448874
Characteristics: xxxi, 212 pages ; 24 cm.
Additional Contributors: Hodges, Brian David 1964-


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Apr 30, 2014

Interesting to compare to my journey with Myasthenia Gravis. After 5 years since my first major crisis, spending 7 weeks in the Civic Hosp. I still do not have a confirmed diagnosis, it is refreshing to read that the author had many of the same problems I have encountered and that it is not in our minds.

Dec 21, 2011

Chloe Atkins' narrative provides a disturbing example of how experts within the medical system can make devastating errors. She convincingly argues against the validity of a "psychosomatic" diagnosis; this diagnosis led to her not being treated and to her being accused of causing her own illness. This courageous woman's story is helpful for anyone who has been diagnosed with a chronic disease or who has family members who have been thus diagnosed. My Imaginary Illness ought to be required reading for medical students.

Lakemoon Mar 27, 2011

This Is a gripping well written book.
It exposed the assumptions medicine can make and how that can snowball devastatingly. Chloe Atkins is one tough survivor. I'm glad she has brought her story forward.


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Dec 21, 2011

From the clinical commentary by Dr. Brian Hodges: "There is a robust literature that shows that empathy declines in medical students as their training advances, as they develop something called 'detached concern.' [...] The ability to convey empathy and attend to patient dignity remains an underemphasized competence for today's health professionals."

Dec 17, 2011

"Liberal democracies evoke a paradigm of equal, autonomous, and fit citizenship. To require care challenges this paradigm. To ail physically means confronting one's dependence in a society that eagerly extols individual autonomy and independence."

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