Showing 111 - 120 of 148 annotations tagged with the keyword "Medical Mistakes"

The Mysteries Within

Nuland, Sherwin

Last Updated: Feb-19-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

In The Mysteries Within, Sherwin Nuland takes the reader on a guided tour of selected organs inside the human body. Beginning with the stomach, he progresses along to visit the liver, spleen, heart, uterus, and ovaries. At each point he addresses various historical and contemporary beliefs, as promised in the book's subtitle, "A Surgeon Reflects on Medical Myths." Nuland brings to this endeavor the patented mixture of personal story, elucidation of medical history, and plain old good writing that characterizes all of his books.

For example, he devotes the first three chapters to the stomach. The first consists mostly of a brilliant clinical tale in which a six-week-old baby is found to have a wax bezoar in his stomach. The second and third provide a cogent survey of beliefs about the stomach's function, beginning with Greek humoral theory, continuing through van Helmont and the iatrochemists, and ending with Ivan Petrovich Pavlov and his seminal monograph, The Work of the Digestive Glands.

Van Helmont and his mentor, Paracelsus, appear again and again in later chapters as the earliest champions of the idea that the body runs by means of chemical processes (iatrochemistry). However, as Nuland points out, Paracelsus has left us two different legacies. One is his devotion to chemistry and experimentation, which eventually led to modern biological science. The other is his devotion to alchemy and mysticism, which makes him as well a forerunner of contemporary irrational systems of healing.

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The Physician in Literature

Cousins, N., ed.

Last Updated: Feb-19-2002
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

The Physician in Literature is an anthology edited and introduced by Norman Cousins that aims to illustrate the multiple ways in which doctors are portrayed in world literature. Literary selections are organized into 12 categories including Research and Serendipity, The Role of the Physician, Gods and Demons, Quacks and Clowns, Clinical Descriptions in Literature, Doctors and Students, The Practice, Women and Healing, Madness, Dying, The Patient, and An Enduring Tradition.

Some of the notable authors represented in this collection include Leo Tolstoy, Herman Melville, Albert Camus, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Anton P. Chekhov, Orwell, Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevski, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Mann, Gustave Flaubert, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A healthy dose of William Carlos Williams makes for some of the most enjoyable reading ("The Use of Force" and excerpts from his Autobiography).

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Andy Safian (Bill Pullman), an English professor, and his wife Tracy (Nicole Kidman), recently married, have bought a new house. Short of money, they take in a lodger, Dr. Jed Hill (Alec Baldwin), a surgeon who went to high school with Andy. Tracy suffers from mysterious abdominal pains and then has to have emergency surgery when an ovarian cyst ruptures. Jed Hill performs the surgery. He finds that her other ovary appears necrotic and removes it. It later turns out to have been healthy.

Tracy sues for malpractice and receives a huge settlement. She then leaves her husband, who gradually realizes that she and the surgeon had been lovers and that he has been the victim of their complex con game: she has sacrificed her fertility and Dr. Hill his career in exchange for the millions of dollars paid out by the hospital's insurance company. Andy sets about seeking revenge.

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

At the age of 42, Barbara Rosenblum learns, after several misdiagnoses, that she has advanced breast cancer. This book, co-written by Rosenblum, a sociologist, and her lesbian partner, Sandra Butler, a feminist writer and activist, is a record of their lives together from the diagnosis until Rosenblum's death three years later. Early on, Rosenblum decides that her dying will be exemplary and self-conscious, and she and Butler use their writing as a way to create an illuminating examination of their lives over those three years.

The book's title is accurate; the writing takes the form of alternating meditations by two women, on the effects of cancer on their relationship, their work, their families, and their social, political, and spiritual beliefs. Especially significant are the differences between their voices, and the differences between the experience of the person who is dying and that of the person who is going to have to survive and grieve. The writers bravely explore the conflicts between them as well as their profound bonds.

After a mastectomy and eighteen months of chemotherapy, Rosenblum has a very brief respite, followed by liver and lung metastases, and prolonged further chemotherapy. A few months after ending treatment, she dies at home.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This is a collection of humorous sketches first published in 1850. They purport to describe the youthful experience (and antics) of an elderly "swamp doctor" named Dr. Madison Tensas. In fact, they are the work of Henry Clay Lewis, a young Jewish-American doctor who, after graduating from the Louisville Medical Institute in 1846, set up practice in MADISON County, Louisiana, along the banks of the TENSAS River.

The Introduction of this edition, written by Edwin T. Arnold, locates Henry Clay Lewis and his work within the context of 19th Century "South and Southwest Humor," and briefly discusses each piece. One of his major points is that the swamp doctor's "odd leaves" contain a dark, almost Gothic strain, thoroughly mixed in with their humorous and prankish sensibility. (Perhaps "lack of sensibility" would be a better phrase to use to describe these sketches.)

The first brief sketch compares characteristics of the "city physician" with the "swamp doctor." After this, we follow the growth and development of "Dr. Tensas" from childhood through medical school and into his practice in the swamp country of Louisiana. Among the more notable sketches are "Getting Acquainted with the Medicine," in which the student's preceptor conceals his bottle of whiskey by labeling it "tincture of arsenic"; "The Curious Widow," in which the student prepares a gristly surprise for his snooping landlady; "Being Examined for My Degree," which demonstrates the comic vagaries of oral examinations; "My First Call in the Swamp," in which the newly minted doctor cures his first patient (more or less); and "How to Cure Fits," which presents a novel and efficient treatment for hysterical disorders.

If you want to find some genuine clinical wisdom in this book, look no further than "My First Call in the Swamp," where the author observes, "if you wish to ruin yourself in the estimation of your female patients, hint that the disease they are laboring under is connected with hysterics" (p. 146).

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A Libation of Blood

Weldon, Fay

Last Updated: May-24-2001
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Alison, 39 years old, is twice-divorced, with three children, on the verge of moving in with a man called Bobby. Her breast is sore and she is afraid it's cancer. Her mother tells her it's more likely she's pregnant. She says she uses contraceptives; her mother tells Alison that she was conceived when a condom broke.

Alison considers abortion, recalling her last pregnancy. Having given birth to a child with Down's Syndrome who died at three months, she had had amniocentesis and was told that she was carrying twin boys, both normal. When the twins were born, though, one turned out to be a girl. One twin, it seemed, had been tested twice. Although the female twin did not have Down's Syndrome, Alison began at that point to worry about luck and the uncertainty of medicine (and of life).

So now, pregnant again, she asks her mother what she should do, and is told to "trust to luck." But she is afraid that her luck has run out and she must take control for herself. A scan shows that she is carrying twins again. Only now does her mother tell her that she is in fact a twin, that her sister had Down's Syndrome and died shortly after birth--in fact, her mother admits, the midwife "did away with" her. (The euphemism carries the senses both of euthanasia and of murder.)

Hearing this, Alison decides she wants to have an abortion right away. Her doctor, thinking the problem is that she wants only one child, gives her the option of selectively terminating one fetus and carrying the other one, but tells her she wouldn't be able to choose which to keep and which to abort. She rejects the idea, imagining how she'd tell the surviving twin about her decision later on, and decides instead to "have them both and trust to luck."

As she leaves the clinic, she begins to bleed and miscarries. Later her mother tells her that she, too, once miscarried twins, and tells Alison she'll have better luck next time, because of the bleeding: "Blood, " her mother says, "is the libation the God of Chance requires."

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Bringing Out the Dead

Connelly, Joe

Last Updated: May-18-2001
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Frank is an emergency medic and ambulance driver working night shifts for Our Lady of Mercy hospital in Hell's Kitchen, New York City. The novel begins with Frank's resuscitation of an elderly man called Mr. Burke, who has had a heart attack, and ends a couple of days later with Mr. Burke's death in the hospital. Frank is haunted by the patients he has failed to save, some of whom inhabit his experience like kinds of ghosts.

Most insistent is a teenage girl called Rose who died during an asthma attack, in part because Frank was unable to intubate her in time. He is also unable to forget his marriage, which ended because of the deadening effects of his work. And now Frank is also haunted by doubts about the value of restoring life.

He has successfully started Mr. Burke's heart, but the man is brain dead. Frank thus watches as Mr. Burke's family is first given hope and then must learn that there is none. Frank almost falls in love with Mr. Burke's drug-addicted and disillusioned daughter, Mary, perhaps seeing in her an opportunity for a mutual restoration to health.

But when her father finally dies--when the attending realizes that the patient's struggle hasn't been the "survival instinct" but rather a "fight to die"--she blames Frank, who recognizes that his purpose is not simply to keep people alive (or to bring them back from the dead), but rather that "saving lives" means preserving their value, somehow, in his memory. He walks away from the hospital, and when he gets home, Rose--her ghost, and Frank's own symbol for all the patients he hasn't resurrected--is waiting there, to forgive him.

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Frankenstein

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft

Last Updated: May-07-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is the familiar story of Victor Frankenstein, a scientist obsessed with his desire to penetrate the secret of life and create a "perfect" creature. The novel is actually a series of stories within stories. The outermost is the tale of Walton, a young captain who sails toward the North Pole in hopes of discovering a northern passage to the New World; he is obsessed with penetrating the "dangerous mysteries" of the north. His ship comes upon the mortally ill Dr. Frankenstein, adrift on an ice floe. Most of the novel recounts the strange tale Frankenstein tells Walton as he lies dying on the ship.

In the book's center is the monster's own story, as told to Frankenstein. At the moment he gives his creature the spark of life, Frankenstein is overwhelmed with the ugliness and unnaturalness of his creation. He abandons the creature, who then begins to pursue him to seek acceptance, and when that is not forthcoming, to seek revenge, eventually killing all those who Frankenstein loves.

The creature yearns for love and acceptance, but all are horrified by him. At first Frankenstein agrees to create a mate for him -- "I am malicious," the creature explains, "because I am miserable." But at the last minute he reconsiders, horrified at the implications of possibly creating a superhuman race. After the creature kills Frankenstein's friend Clerval and his beloved Elizabeth, the doctor begins to pursue him throughout Europe and eventually to the Arctic, where Walton encounters them. After the creature is satisfied that Frankenstein is dead, he takes his leave forever, "soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance."

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Summary:

The film covers two days in the life of Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage), a burned-out EMT (emergency medical technician) working the socio-economic underside of Manhattan. From the beginning, Frank is upset because recently all his patients have been dying on him, and he is haunted throughout by the hallucinated ghost of Rose, a young woman who collapsed on the street and died, apparently because he could not intubate her correctly.

Frank is highly stressed, he has no life outside his work, and he is self-medicating with alcohol. He tries to quit, but his boss keeps him on by promising time off in the future. In the film's first action, Frank does manage to miraculously resuscitate Mr. Burke, a heart-attack victim, but the patient winds up in the hospital with a very bad prognosis, so even that "saving" works against Frank.

Frank has encounters with numerous patients, many of them street people whose lives are out of control, some of whom are ER (Emergency Room) regulars, such as the demented young Noel (Marc Anthony). He also deals with (and is dealt with by) several highly idiosyncratic EMT partners in his ambulance rounds (John Goodman and others). Frank gets to know Mary Burke (Patricia Arquette), the daughter of the heart-attack victim, and they tentatively move toward being a couple who might help each other survive their lives.

Near the end, Frank, who knows Mr. Burke had tried to tear out his tubes during a brief moment of consciousness, and who feels he has been getting pleading messages from him to end his agonies, surreptitiously takes him off life support long enough for him to die. The physician who responds to the code decides not to attempt resuscitation of this patient who had already been resuscitated 14 times that day. Frank goes to tell Mary that her father has died (but not how), and exhaustedly falls asleep on her breast, apparently having forgiven himself because he has in some sense finally "saved" Mr. Burke.

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Summary:

Second Opinions, Jerome Groopman's second collection of clinical stories, illuminates the mysteries, fears, and uncertainties that serious illness evokes in both patients and doctors. The book is divided into 8 chapters, each a clinical story involving a patient with a life-threatening illness, plus a prologue and epilogue written by Groopman. The stories focus on people who face myelofibrosis, acute leukemia, hairy cell leukemia, breast cancer, and marrow failure of unknown cause. Two chapters are Groopman's personal accounts of his firstborn son's near fatal misdiagnosis, and of his grandfather's Alzheimer's dementia.

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