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Diagnosis in chronic illness: disabling or enabling--the case of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

  [ 43 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • June 3, 1995

This paper examines doctors' and patients' views on the consequences
of an increasingly common symptomatic diagnosis, chronic
fatigue syndrome (CFS). Two studies were conducted: the first
comprised interviews with 20 general practitioners; the second
was a longitudinal study, comprising three interviews over a
period of 2 years with 50 people diagnosed with CFS. Contrasts
were apparent between doctors' practical and ethical concerns
about articulating a diagnosis of CFS and patients'
experiences with and without such a diagnosis. Seventy per
cent of the doctors were reluctant to articulate a diagnosis
of CFS. They felt constrained by the scientific uncertainty
regarding its aetiology and by a concern that diagnosis might
become a disabling self-fulfilling prophecy. Patients, by
contrast, highlighted the enabling aspects of a singular
coherent diagnosis and emphasized the negative effects of
having no explanation for their problems.

Woodward RV, Broom DH, Legge DG

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