Lives in Medicine brings together the perspectives of literary scholars, historians, anthropologists, psychiatrists and clinicians to find ways to understand patients’ stories, and to use this detailed understanding to inform medical practice.
Based at Oxford University, Lives in Medicine is an ambitious and novel project with far-reaching potential for patients’ understanding of their medical conditions, for medical practice, and for academic research. Its purpose is to improve the quality and ethical environment of medicine by directing patients, medical professionals, academic and clinical researchers, policy-makers, and the medical industries to engage with and be equipped to analyse accounts of the lived experience of patients and practitioners.
Developed by the Oxford Centre for Life-writing at Wolfson College Oxford, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutes, and the Wolfson College Digital Research Cluster, in consultation with the Royal Society of Medicine, it works at the point of intersection between the humanities and medical practice. Life-writing encompasses many disciplines, looking in detail at the ways in which people construct their stories, from biography to diary entries and aural testimony.
At the centre of the Lives in Medicine project is a database that gathers more than 10,000 illness narratives including records, letters, diaries and published books written by patients, carers and physicians. The database continues to grow, and will be a major resource for the general public, practitioners and academics – the first of its kind. Building on this work, a network of academics and practitioners has developed over the first two years of the project, working together across workshops, seminars and colloquia to collectively develop avenues for further research to be pursued in the next five-year phase of the project.