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Health and the Rhetoric of Medicine

Health and the Rhetoric of Medicine

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Judy Z. Segal


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
232 pages, 6 x 9


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About the Book

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.


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.


“Judy Z. Segal makes a strong contribution to medical rhetoric in a work that is well reasoned and ably argued, a work that methodically extends the province of rhetorical analysis in ways both insightful and useful.”—Rhetoric Review