Health and the Rhetoric of Medicine

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SIU Press, Dec 8, 2005 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 217 pages
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Assessing rhetorical principles of contemporary health issues

Hypochondriacs are vulnerable to media hype, anorexics are susceptible to public scrutiny, and migraine sufferers are tainted with the history of the “migraine personality,” maintains rhetorical theorist Judy Z. Segal. All are influenced by the power of persuasion.


Health and the Rhetoric of Medicine explores persistent health conditions that resist conventional medical solutions. Using a range of rhetorical principles, Segal analyzes how patients and their illnesses are formed within the physician/patient relationship. The intractable problem of a patient’s rejection of a doctor’s advice, says Segal, can be considered a rhetorical failure—a failure of persuasion.

Examining the discourse of medicine through case studies, applications, and analyses, Segal illustrates how illnesses are described in ways that limit

patients’ choices and satisfaction. She also illuminates psychiatric conditions, infectious diseases, genetic testing, and cosmetic surgeries through the lens of rhetorical theory.


Health and the Rhetoric of Medicine bridges critical analysis for scholarly, professional, and lay audiences. Segal highlights the persuasive element in diagnosis, health policy, illness experience, and illness narratives. She also addresses questions of direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs, the role of health information in creating the “worried well” and problems of trust and expertise in physician/patient relationships. A useful resource for critical common sense in everyday life, the text provides an effective examination of a society increasingly influenced by the rhetoric of health and medicine.


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Selected pages


A Kairology of Biomedicine
Patient Audience The Rhetorical Construction of the Migraineur
The Epideictic Rhetoric of Pathography
Hypochondria as a Rhetorical Disorder
A Rhetoric of Death and Dying
Values Metaphors and Health Policy
The Problem of Patient Noncompliance Paternalism Expertise and the Ethos of the Physician
The Usefulness of a Rhetoric of Medicine
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About the author (2005)

Judy Z. Segal is an associate professor of English at the University of British Columbia, where she teaches the history and theory of rhetoric as well as the rhetoric of science and medicine. Her essays have appeared in such journals as Rhetoric Review, Rheto­ric Society Quarterly, Social Science and Medicine, and the Journal of Medical Humanities. She is a member of the President's International Advisory Committee of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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