The imaginary patient


A diagnosis – the label we give to a disease – is supposed to offer certainty: a system for classifying and treating sickness, valid across time and space, and uncomplicated by value judgements or monetary concerns. Yet, as Jules Montague knows from years of working with patients in several countries, the practice is tainted by the forces of imperialism, politics, discrimination and Big Pharma. At their worst, diagnostic labels can do active harm to patients. Drawing on meticulous research and deep personal insight, Montague delves into historical diagnoses that have become extinct, and into modern maladies – from PTSD to oppositional defiant disorder to excited delirium – and explores whether they too may prove not to be true diagnostic labels at all. Eye-opening and urgent, the book reveals heart-breaking, thought-provoking stories of real people living and dying in the shadow of their diagnoses.

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As featured on BBC Radio 4 (Woman’s Hour, Start the Week), Times Radio, in the Telegraph (also as a bestseller), The Times, and at the Royal Institution. A DAILY TELEGRAPH BOOK OF THE YEARA diagnosis is supposed to give us certainty, our first step on the road to recovery. But what if your diagnosis is inflected by a doctor’s bias, swayed by Big Pharma, or designed to protect the police? What happens when you are — or your child is — refused a diagnosis for a condition the establishment will not recognise?As a consultant neurologist, Dr Jules Montague saw the relief a diagnosis could bring, but she also came to see its limitations. In this eye-opening and humane account, Montague meets with the patients and families who have had their lives turned upside down by a diagnosis they never deserved.She speaks to parents fighting for recognition of their children’s symptoms; men and women whose bodies have been stigmatised by society; and to the families of young black men who are being diagnosed posthumously with a condition that could exonerate their killers.Through these stories of heartbreak and resilience, Montague shines a light on the troubled state of diagnosis, and asks how we might begin to heal.

Additional information

Weight 226 g
Dimensions 19.8 × 12.9 × 1.9 cm








616.075 (edition:23)


General – Trade / Code: K

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