Showing 461 - 470 of 631 annotations tagged with the keyword "Disease and Health"

Equal Affections

Leavitt, David

Last Updated: Nov-17-2003
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The first part of this novel presents a detailed picture of the Jewish Californian Cooper family, centering on the sixty-year-old Louise, who is dying of breast cancer. Her husband, Nat, is unfaithful, and, she suspects, only loves her when she is at her weakest and most sick. Her daughter, April, is a lesbian folk singer who becomes pregnant with the help of a gay male friend and a turkey baster. Danny, the son, is also gay, living in New York with Walter, his lover, who is becoming increasingly detached and obsessed with internet sex groups.

Louise considers herself lucky, though, compared with her younger sister Eleanor, partially disabled by childhood polio, disorganized and ill-groomed and married to Sid, whom Louise finds deeply unattractive. Eleanor's son is a sociopathic drug addict, and her daughter has ovarian cancer caused by Eleanor's taking DES (diethylstilbesterol) in pregnancy. She sends Louise newspaper cuttings about the causes of homosexuality and the dangers of AIDS.

The first part having established the complex dynamics and histories of the family's relationships, the second brings the entire family together in the crisis of Louise's final illness and death (a reaction to chemotherapy drugs causes severe chemical burns and she dies in a burn unit in a San Francisco hospital). After her death, the new dynamics of the family are established, and Louise's son and daughter conclude that their mother had "a terrible life" (p. 261).

The short third part shows that no such conclusion is possible, that even those closest to us remain terribly but fascinatingly unknowable. A flashback to a point just before Louise's final illness describes her attempt to convert to Catholicism and a brief moment in which she experiences a marvelous sense of complete harmony.

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Middlesex

Eugenides, Jeffrey

Last Updated: Nov-16-2003
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The narrator of this fictional autobiography is Cal Stephanides, an American of Greek descent with a hereditary 5-alpha-reductase deficiency that gives her the prepubertal anatomy (and thus the social upbringing) of a girl, but at puberty begins her transformation into ambiguity, then maleness, and then, gradually, masculinity.

The novel is a kind of biography, not just of Cal, but also of the mutant gene that causes her/his condition. It is transmitted from a small village in Smyrna, through his grandparents, who were also brother and sister and who married on the ship to America, apparently leaving behind family as well as national identity. Their Greekness and the gene come with them, and the consequences of their incest haunts Cal's grandmother, Desdemona, until the very end of the novel.

The family settles in Detroit, and a third biographical strand is the story of the Greek immigrant community in 20th century America, from Ford's assembly lines to bootlegging during the prohibition, through Detroit race riots and then to affluent suburbia.

Cal's family settles in the suburb of Middlesex, and the focus narrows to the individual. Calliope is raised as a girl, but in adolescence, Callie learns about hermaphroditism, narrowly escapes sex-assignment surgery, becomes a performer in a seventies sex show in San Francisco, and finally returns home to Middlesex, Grosse Point, Michigan, as a male. The story is framed by Cal's much later adult life as a man in Berlin, and his successful romance with a woman he meets there.

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The Ash Garden

Bock, Dennis

Last Updated: Nov-16-2003
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Emiko a child survivor of Hiroshima, is now a documentary filmmaker. She has horrific memories of August 1945 when she lost her parents and little brother, and of the years of painful operations and homesickness in America where she was sent to restore her mutilated face. She is hoping to interview Anton Böll, a scientist who had fled Germany to work on the Manhattan project.

Böll contends that he had been unaware of human rights abuses; he left Europe because the Nazi regime had cramped his scientific style. As a consequence, his mother was imprisoned and killed. During the war, he met his Austrian-born Jewish wife, Sophie, at a displaced persons camp in Canada. Sophie had lost her whole family, but she does not speak of them and he does not ask.

Briefly they knew happiness, but soon Böll left for work on the bomb and on to Hiroshima in its aftermath. Their marriage would never be the same. For the rest of his life, Böll justified his involvement as a "dream" turned "nightmare" emerging from the imperative demands of a virtuous science. When Emiko approaches him, he hesitates. He does not want to risk blame. But his dying wife knows that absolution for unacknowledged guilt is what he craves.

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The Imaginary Invalid

Molière

Last Updated: Oct-21-2003
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Argan, a fearful but miserly hypochondriac, divides his time between summoning the doctor to care for his ills and trying not to settle the resultant bills. He resolves to marry his daughter, Angélique, to a medical student, hoping to acquire unlimited access to gratis consultation. The chosen fiancé is an unattractive dolt, who would never interest Angélique, even if she were not already in love with clever, handsome Cléante, who poses as her music instructor.

Argan's wife, however, plans to send Angélique to a convent, removing her from the line inheritance. At the urging of the sensible servant Toinette, he feigns death to test his wife's affection only to discover her contempt. Again with the help of Toinette, the young lovers convince Argan to liberate himself from the twin tyrannies of his ailing body and his grasping physicians by becoming his own doctor. The play closes with the physicians' lively examination of Argan and his entry into the profession, full of musical pomp and pidgin Latin.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

A philosopher and a clinical ethicist conduct an analysis of the practice of assisted suicide. They begin with the premise that health care providers may at times be assisting with suicide now, whether or not it is legal and whether or not the ethical dimensions have been solved. They contend that assisting a suicide might be morally right, but only when the patient’s choice is rational and free.

Referring to an earlier publication by Prado (Last Choice: Preemptive Suicide in Advanced Age, 1990; 2nd ed. 1998), they devote a chapter to each of three criteria used to determine the "rationality" of a choice for suicide, and another chapter to the "slippery slope" argument. A final chapter summarizes their contribution to this topic.

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Annotated by:
Martinez, Richard

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

In Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Values, Peter Singer argues that "the traditional western ethic has collapsed" as we enter "a period of transition in our attitude to the sanctity of life" (pp. 1). The book begins with the tale of Trisha Marshall, a twenty-eight year old woman, who in 1993 was seventeen weeks pregnant when a gunshot to her head left her in an intensive care unit, her body warm, her heart beating, a respirator supporting her breathing. However, she was brain dead.

Her boyfriend and her parents wanted the hospital to do everything possible so that the baby would be born. The ethics committee of the hospital supported the decision. For the next 100 days, Trisha Marshall continued to be supported in the ICU until her baby was delivered by cesarean birth. After a blood test showed that the boyfriend was not the father, and after three weeks in the intensive care unit, the baby went to live with Marshall's parents.

Singer uses this introduction to pose the many ethical questions that are raised because of medicine's ability to keep a "brain dead" body warm for an extended period of time. "How should we treat someone whose brain is dead, but whose body is still warm and breathing? Is a fetus the kind of being whose life we should make great efforts to preserve? If so, should these efforts be made irrespective of their cost? Shall we just ignore the other lives that might be saved with the medical resources required?

Should efforts to preserve the fetus be made only when it is clear that the mother would have wanted this? Or when the (presumed?) father or other close relatives ask for the fetus to be saved? Or do we make these efforts because the fetus has a right to life which could only be overridden by the right of the pregnant woman to control her own body--and in this case there is no living pregnant woman whose rights override those of the fetus?" (pp. 17-18).

In the chapters that follow, Singer argues that whether western society will acknowledge it or not, we have, in our actions and decisions, moved to an ethic where "quality of life" distinctions trump "sanctity of life" positions. Yet, many continue to raise the "sanctity of life" position when it is clear that our legal and ethical positions in western society have embraced the "quality of life" stance. For Singer, this paradox results in an incoherent and illogical approach to the ethical challenges presented by modern medicine.

Throughout his book, Singer presents evidence for his argument through ethical and historical analysis of brain death, abortion, physician assisted suicide and euthanasia, organ donation, and the nature of persons. For those uncomfortable with Singer's position on "infanticide," this book allows one to follow Singer's argument and his recommendations in the last chapter for a coherent approach to these "quality of life" decisions.

He closes his book with the recommendation that a new ethic should embrace five new commandments to replace the old "sanctity of life" commandments. His commandments are: 1) Recognize that the worth of human life varies; 2) Take responsibility for the consequences of our decisions (in end of life care); 3) Respect a person's desire to live or die; 4) Bring children into the world only if they are wanted; and 5) Do not discriminate on the basis of species.

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The Cottage Hospital

Betjeman, John

Last Updated: Oct-05-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

On a summer afternoon, the poet lies in a garden under a mulberry tree. The air is "swimming with insects" and children are playing in the street. He notices a housefly being caught in a spider’s web. The spider poisons and kills the fly, then wraps it in "lithe elastic," but everything else in the garden remains the same. Life goes on as usual. The poet then turns his attention to the future. One day in some cottage hospital he, too, will approach the end of his life. Will he groan in his bed and gasp for breath, while no one notices? [36 lines]

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Summary:

The film opens with a bird's-eye sweep over the frieze of a post-engagement battlefield--mud, strewn with bodies and shards of machinery, all iron grey and relieved only by rare patches of crimson blood. Psychiatrist William Rivers (Jonathan Pryce) treats shell-shocked soldiers in the converted Craiglockhart Manor. He is obliged to admit the poet and decorated war hero, Siegfried Sassoon (James Wilby), because his military superiors prefer to label the much-loved Sassoon's public criticism of the war as insanity rather than treason. Rivers is supposed to "cure" the very sane poet of his anti-war sentiments.

At the hospital, Sassoon meets another poet, Wilfred Owen (Stuart Bunce), equally horrified by the war although he, like Sassoon, believes himself not to be a pacifist. A secondary plot is devoted to the mute officer Billy Pryor (Jonny Lee Miller) who recovers his speech, his memories, and a small portion of his self-respect through the patience of his doctor and his lover, Sarah (Tanya Allen). Vignettes of other personal horrors and the brutal psychological wounds they have caused are presented with riveting flashbacks to the ugly trenches. Sassoon, Owen, and Pryor return to active service. The film closes with a dismal scene of Owen's dead body lying in a trench.

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

The Longhettis are an Italian-American working class family. Nick (Peter Falk) is a construction worker. He and his wife Mabel (Gena Rowlands) have three children. Mabel is unusual, perhaps mentally ill, maybe with a bipolar or borderline disorder, but diagnosis is not really the point. She is warm, spontaneous, beautiful, and an affectionate if inconsistent mother. Because Mabel is so eccentric and unpredictable, the Longhetti family seems to function at a kind of delicate equilibrium.

This stability is disrupted when Nick fails to get away from work on a night he and Mabel had planned to spend alone together. The children are with her mother, and Mabel finds it intolerable to be alone, so she gets drunk, goes out, and picks up someone in a bar. The next morning Nick brings a crowd of work mates home with him after the night shift and Mabel copes with the invasion by cooking up a spectacular spaghetti breakfast and flirting outrageously with one of Nick's friends.

Later when a neighbour brings his children to play, Mabel again behaves inappropriately. Nick, under pressure from his mother and Mabel's physician, is persuaded to have his wife institutionalized. She is taken away. Nick angrily rejects the concern of his friends, but struggles terribly to manage the children.

The film ends with the evening of Mabel's return from hospital. Nick and his mother have arranged a dinner party to celebrate her recovery, but it is quickly clear that, despite electroconvulsive therapy, Mabel is unchanged. It also becomes more evident than ever that her "madness" is rooted as much in the family's social network, her uncomprehending parents, judgmental mother-in-law, and volatile husband, as it is in her own brain or personality. But, after an appalling evening, Mabel and Nick put the children to bed and then go about cleaning up the house as usual, their fragile normality restored for now.

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Dehiscence

Haddad, Amy Marie

Last Updated: Jun-02-2003
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In her poem, "Dehiscence," Amy Haddad speaks in the voice of a nurse tending a suffering patient. The patient has "come unstitched," and, seen through the nurse's eyes, the patient's wounds are devastating: fistulas "connect bowel, liver, pancreas"; the "stench is overwhelming," telling everyone, caregiver and patient alike, that medical science has failed, that no more can be done.

Moved by her patient's suffering and her own inability to help, the nurse does what she can. She washes the patient, changes the soiled sheets, removes the dirty dressings and replaces them with clean gauze and tape. "Done," she says. Stepping back, looking from a distance, she can no longer see the patient's wounds. She "is caught," as all caregivers have been at one time or another, in "the illusion" of the patient's "wholeness."

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