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ethnography, experiences, illness and disease, South Korea, suffering



  1. Oh, Hyunjin
  2. Schepp, Karen G.
  3. McGrath, Barbara B.


ABSTRACT: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis presents significant challenges for patients because of the devastating disease characteristics and the fact that there is no treatment available. In this article, we explored the illness experiences from the perspectives of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in the sociocultural context of South Korea. Fifteen patients were observed and interviewed between September 2009 and July 2010 in the metropolitan area of South Korea. We used an ethnographic approach for data collection and analysis. The meta-theme generated was "a journey of suffering," and three themes emerged: (a) off the course, (b) drifting, and (c) on a new boat. Participants experienced multidimensional suffering as the disease progressed. Healthcare professionals should understand that, for many patients, this disease is a process or a series of experiences rather than a single diagnosis. This knowledge would allow healthcare providers to help patients prepare for those needs that arise as the disease worsens.