Doctoring the South: Southern Physicians and Everyday Medicine in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

By Steven M. Stowe | Go to book overview

Chapter Six
THE LIVES OF OTHERS

As physicians continued their treatment over time, they were drawn into the lives of others. Simultaneously, they were drawn more fully into the ways the sickroom configured their “experience” into something that was both orthodox and yet intensely personal. Malady’s surprises, the array of therapies, and the social bedside continued to shape everything the physician said and did in a case. To an important extent, as this chapter shows, the physician created continuity from these pressures by keeping a written record of what he witnessed, flexing his experience against disease, the patient, and whoever else was in the sickroom. As the physician did this over the course of treatment, case by case, he wrote not only his confrontation with disease but also his engagement with illness, inscribing with objectifying purpose what was nonetheless a powerful subjectivity. His bedside notes thus may be seen as richer extensions of his brief daybook notations of calls and prescriptions considered in Chapter 4. They also were the raw material—that is, less “public,” less consciously autobiographical— for the central orthodox text: the full case narrative looked at in Chapter 8.

In particular, bedside notes combine the schooled impulse to record medical observations with a sense of how the doctor reshaped this impulse in order to perform his everyday work. Here we will look at the notes of three midcentury physicians for what they reveal about the doctor’s purposes and self-image, seen especially in the way notes featured the M.D. and excluded others. As a context for looking at these notes, this chapter begins by characterizing the sickroom world in terms of the conflict that often erupted there. Although the views and labors of families and physicians overlapped in many ways, as we have seen, there were sharp tensions as well. A doctor’s bedside notes must be read as texts created in the heat of this conflict or its potential, in which he asserted his vision

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Doctoring the South: Southern Physicians and Everyday Medicine in the Mid-Nineteenth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Studies in Social Medicine ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction - Physicians, Everyday Medicine, and the Country Orthodox Style 1
  • Part One - Choosing Medicine 13
  • Chapter One - Men, Schools, and Careers 15
  • Chapter Two - The Science of All Life 41
  • Chapter Three - Starting out 76
  • Part Two - Doing Medicine 99
  • Chapter Four - Livelihood 101
  • Chapter Five - Bedside 131
  • Part Three - Making Medicine 165
  • Chapter Six - The Lives of Others 167
  • Chapter Seven - Landscape, Race, and Faith 200
  • Chapter Eight - Witnessing 228
  • Epilogue - The Civil War and the Persistence of the Country Orthodox Style 259
  • Notes 273
  • Bibliography 327
  • Index 365
  • Studies in Social Medicine 374
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