Showing 191 - 200 of 240 annotations tagged with the keyword "Medical Advances"

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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Hearing Impairment

Murray, Les

Last Updated: Dec-27-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Hearing loss? Yes, loss is what we hear / who are starting to go deaf. This humorous poem surveys the specific deficits and behaviors that people develop as they progressively lose their hearing. Eventually they reach the point of needing hearing aids and being "wired / back into a slightly thinned world / with a faint plastic undertone to it."

An especially disabling (and potentially humorous) aspect of hearing loss is the inability to decipher speech. The poem provides several examples of garbled interpretation. In the first stanza, "the sad surrealism of the deaf" becomes "dad's a real prism of the Left, " thereby giving a verbal and visual example of the meaning of the phrase. Another illustration: "Hearing Impairment" ends with the line "I'm sorry, sir. It's a red alert!" An urgent statement that earlier in the stanza the hearing-impaired narrator has understood to mean, "a warrior is a ready flirt." [50 lines]

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The Healing Muse

St. Andrews, B. A. (Bonnie)

Last Updated: Dec-19-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The first poem in this chapbook ("Sonogram") contains two images of a small, mysterious life (the fetus imagined as a "white boat on whiter water" and as a "tiny orca") in the midst of the coldly technical medical world. This juxtaposition is characteristic of B. A. St. Andrews's poems in this small collection. In most of them, she uses disciplined and sparkling language to explore the interface between modern medicine with its impersonal machinery and the irreducible mystery of life.

Some of the images are simply breathtaking. For example, in "A Dying Art: Room 309," a terminally ill artist lies in bed, surrounded by "plastic bags that hang / like udders dripping pigment / into her." In a love poem called "The Body of Science," the poet confesses, "Each time your voluntary / muscles make contact / my involuntary ones / contract." And at the end of "Alzheimer's," she observes, "She stood at the big bay / window screaming but he never / heard what it was she never said."

The four poems entitled "Your Breast a Unicorn" consider the fate of breasts attacked "at consolation's center" by "one aberrant cell metastasized." These learned, wise, and witty poems are, in my opinion, among the very best of the breast cancer genre.

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Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Referring to Francis Bacon's 17th-century definition of modern science as the conquest of nature "for the relief of man's estate," Kass looks with concern at the ironic possibility that future advances in medical science and technology may lead to the significant diminishing of humankind. Thus he asks, what price will we wind up paying for medical progress? Kass is concerned about the disconnect between modern medicine, with its powers to extend our controls over life and death and over many human potentials, and, on the other hand, traditional social and individual values.

He argues particularly for serious consideration of values in three areas: (1) distributive justice (which for Kass is, finally, the question as to who shall do the distributing), (2) the "use and abuse of power" (in which he focuses on the process by which power over nature becomes turned into power of some humans over others), and (3) "voluntary self-degradation and dehumanization" (two major concerns being the concept of the optimum baby and the development of technologies of pleasure).

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August

Young, C. Dale

Last Updated: May-31-2001
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

August is divided into two sections: "On the Corner of Fourth & Irving" and "To Marie Curie." The narrator, on a street corner in San Francisco near the teaching hospitals and medical school of University of California, San Francisco, meditates on the recurrence of lymphoma in a patient. Evening is approaching, fog blows in from the ocean, and the city pigeons are unsettled--landing and taking flight.

The meditation includes a tribute to Madame Curie and her discovery of the effects of radium. The patient had had a good chance of cure by radiation treatment--unfortunately, this patient is in the twenty percent who are not cured. The narrator, probably a physician-in-training due to the load of textbooks, had read the patient's chest x-ray as negative (normal) previously.

By the end of the poem, we learn that the physician had felt enlarged lymph nodes in this patient's neck today and he bluntly states: "I have failed. He has not been cured." The poem closes with the sound of the wind and the "beating and beating of wings."

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A Sudden, Fearful Death

Perry, Anne

Last Updated: May-24-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In mid-19th century London, a young nurse is found brutally strangled at the Royal Free Hospital. One of the hospital's Board of Governors, Lady Callandra Daviot, engages her friend former Inspector William Monk to investigate the killing. The victim was not an ordinary Victorian nurse, most of whom were poorly educated, morally suspect, and distinctly lower class. Rather, the dead woman came from a middle class family and was an outspoken professional who had worked side-by-side with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea.

In fact, Nurse Prudence Barrymore had had pretensions of studying to become a doctor--an unthinkable goal for a Victorian woman! As Monk and his colleague, Hester Latterly--another Crimean nurse--investigate the inner workings of the Royal Free Hospital, they soon discover a quagmire of secret passions and deceit.

Monk gains access to letters from Nurse Barrymore to her married sister that appear to incriminate Sir Herbert Stanhope, the hospital's leading surgeon and a paragon of propriety. Was Sir Herbert Nurse Barrymore's secret lover? As Sir Herbert's trial progresses, it appears that he was, but then events suddenly take an unexpected turn.

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Death is like the insect

Dickinson, Emily

Last Updated: May-07-2001
Annotated by:
Chen, Irene
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Death is compared to an "insect / Menacing the tree" in its insidious, covert actions. Although the reader is urged to fight death with whatever means are available, the poet recognizes that some circumstances are beyond hope.

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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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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story takes place in the distant future on a world called New Sparta, shortly after the Irredentist rebellion has been put down. Edward Maret, a wealthy and likeable young man, is about to get married, but doesn't realize until too late that he has enemies close at hand. As a result of their betrayal, Edward disappears into the bowels of the police establishment, only to emerge as a zombie-like cyborg (AX-17). After surviving several years as a cyborg-soldier who has no memory of his human life, AX-17 is captured by the alien Kliya, who initiate a process that leads the cyborg to regain his human identity.

Edward Maret re-emerges--a man betrayed, a man who suffers incalculable pain, a man who has lost everything, including the love of his life. The brutalized man journeys across the galaxy to the Confederation, where physical existence has become a burden to humans, who spend most of their "real" lives in a virtual world of wish fulfillment.

Eventually, he returns to New Sparta with a new identity and a plan to obtain his revenge. Piece by piece the elaborate plan falls into place. Yet at the climax, Edward is forced to look deeply into his character and motivation, while coming to terms with his past.

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Prozac Diary

Slater, Lauren

Last Updated: Dec-15-2000
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In 1988, having suffered for years from major depression and borderline personality disorder, and now also showing symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, the twenty-six-year-old Lauren Slater is prescribed a new drug: Prozac. In this "diary," a series of meditations and progress reports on her experience, Slater traces ten years on Prozac, providing a remarkable before-and-after picture of the drug's effects.

She is "hobbled" by her illness: has dropped out of college, has been fired from most jobs, has been hospitalized five times. By the end of the book, she has received a doctorate from Harvard, has a successful career as writer, teacher, and psychologist, and is in a happy marriage.

Despite these unquestionable positives, Slater is ambivalent about the drug, describing the shock of becoming "normal," of being assaulted by health. She describes the sexual dysfunction, her anxiety about losing the need and ability to write the kind of poetry she had written before, and the terrifying moment when the drug suddenly stops working, and she must confront the possibility that it may not be a reliable and permanent solution.

She comes to fear that, healthy, she is no longer herself but something the drug has created. At the same time, though, it is only because of the drug that she is even able to ask these questions. Finally, she thanks her doctor for his ambiguous gift: she has become like a beautiful fish, her "skin all silver," her "mouth pierced" on Prozac, "this precious hook."

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