Showing 81 - 90 of 121 annotations contributed by Shafer, Audrey

Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

This book, "a humanistically oriented sociocultural history of medicine" (p. x), focuses on the interactions between patient and doctor in western medicine from the nineteenth century through contemporary times. Furst, a Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, uses literary works to chronicle the changing patterns of medical practice, the social positions of doctors, and effects of medical education as they relate to "the doctor-patient alliance." (p. x) By "mapping cultural history in and through literature" (p. x), Furst enriches our understanding of the development of various roles and expectations of doctors and patients since approximately 1830.

The first chapter details the concept of the book and clarifies its purpose. Most histories of medicine concern famous discoveries, introductions of new technologies, and lives of renowned physicians and researchers, yet they neglect to examine patients' perspectives. Furst's mission is to reinstate patients into medical history and contemporary analysis. She chooses to focus on everyday-type of medicine, and more specifically, "to chart the evolution of the changing balance of power in the wake of the advances made in medicine in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, drawing on literary texts as sources." (p. 17)

The other seven chapters are topic oriented and placed in general chronological order. The chapters vary in the number of sources examined. For example, Chapter 2, "Missionary to the Bedside" is a comparative analysis of Anthony Trollope's Doctor Thorne (see this database) and Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters, and Chapter 3, "Seeing-and Hearing-is Believing" almost exclusively concerns Middlemarch by George Eliot (see this database).

Other chapters, however, include commentary on more sources. A chapter on twentieth century hospital-based practice and medical education, "Eyeing the Institution," begins with a review of various films, television shows, and novels and follows with an in-depth comparative analysis of three autobiographical accounts of medical education and training: A Year-Long Night by Robert Klitzman, A Not Entirely Benign Procedure: Four Years as a Medical Student by Perri Klass (see this database), and Becoming a Doctor by Melvin Konner.

Furst examines the effect of gender on patient and physician experiences and expectations. In Chapter 4, "A Woman's Hand," five novels about "doctresses" (a term used for women doctors in the late nineteenth century) are compared. How and why the protagonists became doctors, what sacrifices they made, how patients viewed having a woman doctor, the range of solutions to career and/or marriage choices, and the personalities of the protagonists are some of the comparisons made. These novels are placed in historical context with information about the lives and attitudes of physicians such as Elizabeth Blackwell and Mary Putnam Jacobi.

Other topics include evaluations of the nineteenth century hospital, the role of research and the laboratory (Sinclair Lewis's Arrowsmith annotated by Felice Aull, also annotated by Pamela Moore and Jack Coulehan --see this database--and A. J. Cronin's The Citadel), and the impact of contemporary changes in reimbursement and management on the power relations in medicine. A sensitivity to the effects of language on power relations is a theme throughout the book, and is more fully examined in the final chapter, "Balancing the Power." After an analysis of several books by Oliver Sacks , and his attempts to truly understand his patients' perspectives, Furst concludes, "The balance of power cannot be even, but it must at least strive to be fair." (p. 251)

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Death on Request

Nederhorst, Maarten

Last Updated: Oct-21-2003
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Video

Summary:

In this documentary film about euthanasia in the Netherlands, a man--Kees van Wendel de Joode--with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease) requests death in his home, to be performed by his doctor, Wilfred Sidney van Oijen. The film mostly consists of what appear to be unscripted discussions between Kees, his wife Antoinette, and the doctor; however, there are also interviews with the doctor and views of the doctor seeing other patients. The film shows the doctor performing euthanasia: we watch him inject a barbiturate and then a muscle relaxant and we see him supporting Antoinette during the bedside deathwatch.

Kees has had a rapid deterioration of his ability to function: he is unable to move his legs and right arm, he can no longer speak coherently, and he is having difficulty swallowing. His wife cares for him in their Amsterdam apartment. The film documents the legal requirements for euthanasia in the Netherlands: Kees's repeated requests for euthanasia, confirmation that he has an incurable disease, the second opinion doctor's visit, and reporting the death to the municipal coroner and public prosecutor.

The film's strength lies in the sensitive treatment of the impact of this request on the patient, his wife, and especially on his doctor. Dr. van Oijen is an introspective man who cares for his patients--he makes house calls, explains medical terms to his patients, touches his patients, and asks what they are concerned about. He allows his patients (Antoinette is, in many ways, his patient too) to weep and be emotional.

The religious and moral dimensions of euthanasia are explored mostly with the doctor, who does not view himself as a wanton killer, but rather a doctor whose duty includes the alleviation of suffering. The film concludes with a voice-over stating the doctor will not sleep this night, but still has a clinic full of patients awaiting him in the morning.

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Sick

Silverstein, Shel (Sheldon Allan)

Last Updated: Jun-02-2003
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Children's Literature

Summary:

In this verse for children, Silverstein plays with the idea of malingering: the protagonist, "little Peggy Ann McKay" invokes all kinds of alarming ailments from the common to the bizarre ("My hip hurts when I move my chin") in order to stay home from school. The poem swings with a couplet rhyme scheme until the dramatic turn, when little Peggy discovers it's Saturday. She is miraculously freed of all symptoms and one can imagine her puckishly skipping out the door to play.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

This masterful collection of essays was written by Gawande while he was a general surgery resident. The book consists of fourteen essays divided into three sections: Fallibility, Mystery, and Uncertainty. Although some of the essays fall clearly within the boundaries of the section title (such as "When Doctors Make Mistakes" and "When Good Doctors Go Bad" in the Fallibility section), others cross boundaries or don’t fall as squarely in these general themes ("Nine Thousand Surgeons," an anthropological essay on the cult and culture of a major surgical convention, is also located in the Fallibility section). Nevertheless, the many pleasures of the individual essays, the range of topics explored in depth, and the accuracy of the medicine portrayed are the true strengths of this work.

The book begins Dragnet-style with an Author’s Note: "The stories here are true." (p. 1) And it is this attention to fidelity that makes the essays so compelling. Because even when the truths are hard--the terrible acknowledgment by the medical neophyte about lack of skill and knowledge, the mistakes in judgment at all levels of doctoring, the nature of power relations and their effects on medical pedagogy and on the doctor-patient relationship, the gnawing uncertainties about so many medical decisions--the author confronts the issues head on with refreshing rigor, grace and honesty.

Many of the essays reference scientific and medical research (historical and current) as part of the exploration of the topic. This information is imbedded within the essay, hence avoiding a dry recitation of statistical evidence. Typically, the reader’s interest in an essay is immediately piqued by a story about a particular patient. For example, the story of an airway emergency in a trauma patient, her oxygen saturation decreasing by the second as Gawande and the emergency room attending struggle to secure an airway, surgical or otherwise, sets the scene for "When Doctors Make Mistakes."

This leads to a meditation on not only the culture of the Morbidity and Mortality Conference, with its strange mix of third-person case narrative and personal acceptance of responsibility by the attending physician (see Bosk, Charles, Forgive and Remember: Managing Medical Failure, U. Chicago Press, 1981 for an in depth analysis of this culture), but also a positive examination of the leadership role that anesthesiologists have played in improving patient safety via research, simulator training and systems improvement.

Gawande’s journalistic verve takes him beyond the confines of his own hospital and training to interview patients and physicians on topics as diverse as incapacitating blushing ("Crimson Tide"), chronic pain ("The Pain Perplex"), malpractice and incompetence ("When Good Doctors Go Bad") and herniorraphy ("The Computer and the Hernia Factory"). In addition, he visits his own post-operative patients at home ("The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Eating" and "The Case of the Red Leg") which gives a longer view of postoperative recovery and a broader exposure to patients’ perspectives.

Some of the most telling moments come with the introduction of his children’s medical problems into the text. These range from the relatively straightforward (a broken arm, but a chance to comment on detection of child abuse in the emergency room) to the downright parental nightmare scary (severe congenital cardiac defect in their oldest child and a life-threatening respiratory infection in their prematurely born youngest).

These last two experiences are introduced to provide an angle on issues of choice. Choice of a fully trained, attending physician rather than a fellow to provide follow-up cardiac care for their oldest, and the choice to opt out of the decision-making process for whether to intubate the trachea of the youngest and hence leave the medical decisions up to the care team.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

Lance Armstrong, (currently) four time Tour de France cycling champion, is a survivor of metastatic testicular cancer. This book is largely the story of how his life changed from the moment of his diagnosis (October 2, 1996) onwards. He had been a world class cyclist prior to cancer, but his experience with cancer gave him profound insight not only into his life as a cyclist and competitor, but into life itself.

It is this latter insight which he recognizes as ultimately the most important aspect of his cancer experience. Armstrong notes: "Odd as it sounds, I would rather have the title of cancer survivor than winner of the Tour, because of what it has done for me as a human being, a man, a husband, a son, and a father." (p. 259)

Written in a conversational, straightforward tone, the book chronicles Armstrong's childhood in Texas as the son of a strong, loving, supportive, financially struggling, young mother; his beatings at the hands of a step-father; and his early excellence at endurance athletics. Armstrong became a brash powerhouse cyclist and began to enjoy the material rewards of winning while ignoring the onset of symptoms. At the time of diagnosis, the cancer had spread to his abdomen, lungs and brain.

He documents his search for optimal care, sperm banking, lack of health insurance, surgeries, chemotherapy, self-education and interactions with doctors and nurses. Through it all he acknowledges the tremendous support of his mother and friends, as well as sponsors who stuck with him with no assurance that he would survive, let alone race.

Before he was even through the first year, he decided to start a charitable organization, The Lance Armstrong Foundation, dedicated to cancer research and support of cancer survivors. Through this effort he met his future wife, Kristin Richard (Kik), and her love and support helped him through the dark days of emotional soul-searching post-treatment. The book also details her struggles with successful in vitro fertilization (They currently have a son and twin daughters).

Chapter Nine, The Tour, is an in depth look at the 1999 Tour de France which Armstrong won with the help of his US Postal Service teammates, expert coaching, and his will. This race is brutal, dangerous, and as Armstrong notes, both "a contest of purposeless suffering" and "the most gallant athletic endeavor in the world." (p. 215) He details the maneuvering in the peloton, the strategies, the stages and personalities.

The book concludes with reflections on the birth of his son, the anniversary of his cancer diagnosis, the love of his wife, and his need to ride.

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Love and Modern Medicine

Klass, Perri

Last Updated: Apr-03-2002
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

In this collection of 11 short stories, pediatrician-author Perri Klass primarily explores the world of women and their multiple and complex roles as mother, mother-to-be, friend, spouse, lover and professional. Parenthood--its glories, heartaches, tensions and mysteries--plays a prominent role in many of the stories. There is also a close look at woman-woman friendship--at what women say to their best friends and the nuances of the emotional responses to what is said or left unsaid.

Several stories feature single mothers: "For Women Everywhere" (a woman is helped through labor by her best friend), "Rainbow Mama" (a woman cares for her son during his diagnosis and initial treatment of leukemia), and "City Sidewalks" (a woman finds a baby on the sidewalk on Christmas Eve as she rushes to pick up her child from day care).

"In Necessary Risks," an anesthesiologist deals with work and her high energy preschool daughter while husband and easy-to-raise son head out to a dude ranch. In "The Trouble with Sophie," another high energy, dominant daughter wreaks havoc in kindergarten as well as with her concerned parents. In addition to the anesthesiologist, two other physician-mothers are featured in "Freedom Fighter" and "Love and Modern Medicine."

Parenting a newborn whilst handling other tasks is a theme featured in "Intimacy" (a high school biology teacher celebrates her first night of uninterrupted sleep as she both enjoys and envies her single friend's sex life) and in "Dedication" (a writer takes his stepson to a chess tournament while his biologist wife and newborn enjoy breastfeeding at home). Woman friendships are prominent in "For Women Everywhere," "Freedom Fighter," and "The Province of the Bearded Fathers." Grief and sudden infant death syndrome are themes of "Love and Modern Medicine."

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

Spencer Nadler, a surgical pathologist for over 25 years in southern California, offers 8 essays, as well as an introduction, epilogue and 9 full color histopathology plates in this collection. As he explains in the introduction, Nadler began his training in surgery, but, during a required year of surgical pathology, he finds his true vocation: "I realized a flair for surgical pathology that I had never demonstrated in surgery." (p. xix) However, over the years, he realizes he misses patient contact--these essays, written over 10 years, are forays into an unusual relationship: the pathologist-patient relationship.

Each essay is about a different patient (or other contact) and tissue. One of the most compelling is the first, "Working Through the Images," in which a woman (Hanna Baylan) with metastatic breast cancer seeks Nadler out so that she may view her cancer cells. She arrives in his office unannounced at 6 p.m. and he proceeds to not only show her the slides, but to listen to her. He becomes a witness to her pain, loneliness, sorrow and hope.

"For years I have processed thousands of such cases, determined the manifold forms of disease, but I've never been an intimate part of anyone's illness, never felt the connections of cells to a larger self." (p. 12) During later visits, Baylan cries in his arms and even brings her youngest son in to meet Nadler and view her cells. By this time, Nadler is completely connected to her: "This is heartrending to me, for I have come to love her . . . I can no longer think of Hanna in terms of the cells I see on her slides." (p. 21)

Other chapters highlight fat and bariatric surgery; neurologic disorders such as brain tumor, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and paraplegia; heart disease; sickle cell disease; and palliative care. Each chapter conveys Nadler's visual sophistication and ability to graphically describe cells. For instance, within a fat cell "a large fat globule steamrolls other cell contents flat against the outer membrane until it bulges like a mozzarella." (p. 32) More importantly, Nadler ably extends his cellular acuity to the larger human dimension.

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The Doctor

Fildes, Sir Luke

Last Updated: Feb-05-2002
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Sir Luke Fildes's eldest son Phillip died Christmas morning, 1877. He was attended by Dr. Murray, who directed all of his attention and care to the patient during the child's fatal illness. This unswerving dedication impressed Fildes.

Ten years later, when Sir Henry Tate commissioned Fildes for a painting to exhibit in what was to become the Tate Gallery, Fildes was given freedom to choose the subject matter. Fildes immediately decided to depict this scene of a family physician holding a bedside vigil by a seriously ill child. However, the painting was not begun for four years, and then only at the urging of Tate.

The shade of a lamp is tilted so as to bestow light on the two central figures: the physician, and especially, the recumbent child. The physician faces away from the bottled medicine and cup on the table and directs his gaze fully on the child. He is dressed neatly and sits calmly, patiently, resting his bearded chin on his hand.

The small child is central in the picture, in a white nightshirt on a large white pillow and covered with pale blankets. The makeshift bed consists of two unmatched dining room-type chairs. The child's hair is tousled and the left arm flung out, with hand supinated and beyond the edge of the pillow. Nonetheless, the child rests quite peacefully, as the pose appears quite natural.

To the right and rear of the painting are the parents. They are placed in such deep shadows that it is frequently difficult to make out these figures in reproductions. The mother sits at a table and hides her face in her clasped hands. The father stands beside her, with a comforting hand on her shoulder, as he gazes at the physician.

The painting is set in the interior of a small cottage. Rafters are low, furniture simple. Colors are muted; earth tones predominate. Although the majority of the light comes from the lamp, a bit of light also enters from the recessed window near the mother.

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Summary:

Kirklin, a physician and Lecturer in Medical Humanities at the Royal Free and University College Medical School, and Richardson, a historian and associate at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, are both educators in medical humanities in London. This well-written and concise volume focuses on "the role of the humanities in medical education" and is aimed at "those wishing to integrate medical humanities into their own teaching, and learning." (p. xv) The chapters are written by a variety of educators with a wide range of backgrounds, including artist, medical student, writer, nurse, surgeon and philosopher.

At least two stimuli are cited as reasons for the development of this book: (1) the 1993 publication by the General Medical Council of Tomorrow's Doctors which recommends the inclusion of medical humanities in the required curriculum for undergraduate medical education in the UK and (2) a national conference, "The healing arts: The role of the humanities in medical education" in London, March, 2000. The rationale for such a book is delineated in several prefatory statements including remarks by Professors Sir David Weatherall and Sir K. George M. M. Alberti (Alberti is the president of the Royal College of Physicians). The book concludes with recommendations for further reading, schemata for undergraduate and graduate degrees in medical humanities at University of Wales, Swansea, and an index.

The nine chapters in this volume combine pedagogic philosophy, citations for literature and art and how to encourage reflection about these selections, tools for encouraging student creativity, reproductions of art and literature generated by students or patients or used by teachers for discussion, and some practical advice about teaching medical humanities and its, at times, uneasy connection to the rest of the curriculum. Each chapter reflects the individual contributor's area of expertise and experience. For example, in "Fostering the creativity of medical students", the authors Heather Allan, Michele Petrone (who painted the striking cover art), and Deborah Kirklin provide useful guides for teaching creative writing and art production by students studying cancer and genetic disease.

In a particularly insightful chapter, "Medical humanities for postgraduates: an integrated approach and its implications for teaching," Martyn Evans describes the challenges of developing a full-fledged interdisciplinary program for graduate as well as undergraduate studies in Wales. He addresses concerns about "bolt-on" versus integration of medical humanities in the curriculum, risks of superficiality, and how such studies may transform the culture of modern medicine. Several chapters address a theme (such as "clinical detachment" or understanding the patient's perspective) and include topic-specific sources and guidelines.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Summary:

Levin, a social documentary photographer, immersed herself with the Class of 2001 in the anatomy course at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Her photographs of cadavers, students and instructors are prefaced by a foreword by physician-writer Abraham Verghese. He describes the rite of passage of anatomical dissection: "The living studying the dead. The dead instructing the living." (p. 9)

Interspersed with the full-color images are journal entries by 11 medical students and several artistic anatomic illustrations by 3 of the students. The journal entries and photographs are organized temporally, from the introduction to the dissection lab to the final exam and student-organized memorial service. The end of the book includes the interests and brief biographies of the 11 students and a final dedication by Levin of the book to those who donated their bodies: "I have never before witnessed a gift that is honored, respected, and consumed so completely."

The photographs are not for the squeamish. For example, the double amputee pelvis prosection on page 102, or the multiple images of flayed skin, bits and pieces, or limbs tied to supports provide an insider's view of an anatomy course. Many of the images show the living in motion: translucent images of students in time-lapse swirl near the static cadavers. Other images conjure the once-upon-a-time personhood of the dead: pink fingernail polish on a female cadaver or a heart palmed by a student. The intensity of the student experience is well documented, as is the relaxed atmosphere that inevitably develops as students become accustomed to the experience of dissection.

The student journal entries are sensitive and thoughtful. Students comment on the intersections of daily living, home life, and their own bodies and bodily functions with what they are learning in the classroom. Particular discomfort regarding certain dissections, such as the pelvic region, are acknowledged. Even though students note growing immunity to the dissection experience, such comments reflect insight into professionalism and defense systems. Gallows humor and uneasiness with such humor is explored by Rebecca (p 62) after she sings "New York, New York" to the roomful of cadavers. Forensic clues about the cause of death for a particular cadaver renew the sense for students that this was once a living, feeling person.

The intense, long hours required for understanding and memorizing the material are clearly evident, but ultimately, these students realize they are given a truly special opportunity: "I began to love learning the material just for the sake of learning. Anatomy no longer felt like a burden, but rather a gift." (David, p. 119) Relationships explored include those of student with cadaver (particularly respect/disrespect, ownership and protection), life with death, and those who have had the experience of dissection with those who never will.

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