From Publishers Weekly
In this provocative book, New Yorker staff writer and Harvard Medical School professor Groopman (Second Opinions; The Measure of Our Days) explores the way hope affects one's capacity to cope with serious illness. Drawing on his 30-year career in hematology and oncology, Groopman presents stories based on his patients and his own debilitating back injury. Through these moving if somewhat one-dimensional portraits, he reveals the role of memory, family and faith in hope and how they can influence healing by affecting treatment decisions and resilience. Sharing his own blunders and successes, Groopman underscores the power doctors and other health care providers have to instill or kill hope. He also explains that hope can be fostered without glossing over medical realities: "Hope... does not cast a veil over perception and thought. In this way, it is different from blind optimism: It brings reality into sharp focus." In the final chapters of the book, Groopman examines the existing science behind the mind-body connection by reviewing, for example, remarkable studies on the placebo effect. By the end of the book, Groopman successfully convinces that hope can offer not only solace but strength to those living with medical uncertainty.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From The New England Journal of Medicine
In this book, Jerome Groopman shares with readers what he has learned about the need to keep hope alive, especially in the face of serious illness. The key themes he explores are the extent to which hope features in the experience of patients with chronic and terminal illnesses; the importance of hope in enabling patients, families, friends, and physicians to meet the challenges of serious illness; the various forms that hope can take; and the role of the physician in fostering or at least not extinguishing hope. Groopman discusses these problems through a series of thoughtful case histories, which will doubtless resonate with both clinicians and nonmedical readers. He then adds a summary of some current research into the physiological basis of what we call hope. The brief foray into the scientific understanding of hope, though of some interest, is in many ways a diversion from the main focus of this thoughtful book. The Anatomy of Hope is not about the science of medicine but, instead, examines the art of medicine. Reading it, I had a strong sense that a driving force behind the writing of this book was the author's wish to speak directly to clinicians, specifically to those responsible -- especially through example -- for the education of future generations of doctors. Groopman has learned the hard way about the important role hope can have in the experience of illness, and he wants to share these lessons. Just as parents know how painful it can be to watch one's child learn through painful mistakes, experienced doctors realize that the art of medicine is rarely acquired without mistakes. Unfortunately, when doctors make errors, patients must also pay the price, and in appealing to doctors not to underestimate the part they can play in fostering hope, Groopman clearly believes that both doctors and patients have something to gain. Somewhat lost within the text of this lovely book is a chapter in which the author tells of his own painful experience of a temporary loss of hope, the result of debilitating back pain. This understated chapter would have merited placement at the forefront of the book with a clear statement about why it was included. If I had to guess, I would say that as a result of his experience, Groopman knows the dreadful price that patients can pay when hope is lost, and the pivotal role that physicians can have in fostering and restoring that hope. He knows how ill prepared young doctors are for this task, how deeply older physicians regret lost opportunities, and how grateful patients are when physicians care. Deborah Kirklin, M.B., B.Ch.
Copyright © 2004 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved. The New England Journal of Medicine is a registered trademark of the MMS.