Thinking with Metaphors in Medicine: The State of the Art

1st Edition

Alan Bleakley

Published June 23, 2017
Reference - 270 Pages
ISBN 9781138229440 - CAT# Y308624
Series: Routledge Advances in the Medical Humanities

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While medical language is soaked in metaphor, and thinking with metaphor is central to diagnostic work, medicine – that is, medical culture, clinical practice and medical education – outwardly rejects metaphor for objective, literal scientific language. This thought-provoking book argues that this is a misstep, and critically considers what embracing the use of metaphors and similes might mean for shaping medical culture, and especially the doctor–patient relationship, in a healthy way.


Thinking With Metaphors in Medicine explores:

  • how metaphors inhabit medicine – sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse – and how these metaphors can be revealed, appreciated and understood;
  • how diagnostic work utilizes thinking with metaphors;
  • how patient–doctor communication can be better understood and enhanced as a metaphorical exchange;
  • how the landscape of medicine is historically shaped by leading or didactic metaphors, such as ‘the body as machine’ and ‘medicine as war’, which may conflict with other values or perspectives on healthcare, for instance, person-centred care.


Outlining the kinds of metaphors and resemblances that inhabit medicine and how they shape practices and identities of doctors, colleagues and patients, this book demonstrates how the landscape of medicine may be reshaped through metaphor shift. It is an important work for all those interested in the use of language and rhetoric in medicine, whether hailing from a humanities, social science or healthcare background.


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