The Imaginary Patient | Granta

  • Published: 04/05/2023
  • ISBN: 9781783785858
  • Granta Books
  • 320 pages

The Imaginary Patient

Jules Montague

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 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.

[It] made me think...about what could be and has been influencing diagnosis

Emma Barnett, BBC Women’s Hour

The Imaginary Patient is a great stride forward in the way medical stories are told. Nobody who reads it will experience a doctor's appointment the same way again. Montague's writing is empathetic, surprising and forensic all at once. An extremely valuable book

Caroline Crampton, author of The Way to the Sea

A shocking history of the many ways in which medical diagnoses have "shown themselves to be a form of obfuscation"... Heartbreaking... [it] will make you see doctors differently


The Author

Jules Montague is a former consultant neurologist, and the author of Lost and Found, published in 2018. She writes about health and science for the BBC, Lancet, Guardian and Observer. She has spoken at TEDx London and appeared on BBC Radio 4 and Sky News.

More about the author →

Jules Montague on

Essays & Memoir | The Online Edition

Possessed | State of Mind

Jules Montague

‘I am neither fully awake nor entirely asleep. In fact, I wonder if I am even alive.’