The title of Scannell’s book refers to an episode in her work with AIDS patients when she realizes that the "good doctor" she’d been taught to be--scientifically precise, medically focused and aggressive--was not what many of her patients wanted or needed. From that point on, she strove to understand the nature of her patients’ suffering and how they might be cherished and morally supported during the last weeks and days of their lives. In a series of essays she offers haunting portraits of the men and women she served--and of herself, as she learns to recognize and grapple with her own anger, grief, comfort, and joy.


Scannell’s writing is direct, at times deceptively simple, and often moving. Her patients offer a cross-section of gender (in fact, challenge her notion of the very concept of gender), nationality, and class. This is a rich collection of snapshots not only of people with AIDS but of the journey of their physician. Scannell’s need to write the stories of her patients is also shadowed by her knowledge that, before she finished writing these stories, she herself has been diagnosed with uterine and ovarian cancer (two separate primary cancers).



Place Published

San Francisco



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