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The case of Debbie revisited: A literary perspective


The publication in theJournal of the American Medical Association of a narrative entitled “It's Over, Debbie,” in which a gynecology resident apparently performs euthanasia, has stirred considerable debate characterized by varying interpretations not only of the ethical issues involved but of the meaning of the text itself. Formal analysis reveals the narrative to be strikingly literary in its ambiguity, its foregrounding of its own textuality, and its dominant structure of repetition and reversal. The analysis points to features that account for some of the varying interpretations in the debate, and it calls into question the relation of the text to whatever events it may represent and to how the resident may have perceived these events.

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Reference notes

  1. 1.

    “It's Over, Debbie,”JAMA 259 (8 January 1988): 272.

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    Bernadine Z. Paulshock, letter,JAMA 259 (8 April 1988): 2094.

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    Verne M. Marshall, letter,JAMA 260 (12 August 1988): 787.

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    See, for example, Terry Eagleton,Literary Theory: An Introduction (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1983), pp. 1–16, 127–50.

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    Willard Gaylin et al., “Doctors Must Not Kill,”JAMA 259 (8 April 1988): 2139–40; John G. Manesis, letter,JAMA 259 (8 April 1988): 2095–96.

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    Peter A. Singer, letter,JAMA 259 (8 April 1988): 2096.

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    Frances H. Miller and George J. Annas, letter,JAMA 259 (8 April 1988): 2095.

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    George Lakoff and Mark Johnson,Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1980).

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Abbott, C.S. The case of Debbie revisited: A literary perspective. J Med Hum 10, 99–106 (1989).

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  • Ethical Issue
  • Medical Association
  • Formal Analysis
  • American Medical
  • American Medical Association