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"Prior to the era of bioethics, physicians had often overstepped their power....",
This review is from: The Good Doctor: A Father, a Son, and the Evolution of Medical Ethics (Hardcover)
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Barron H. Lerner's "The Good Doctor" is the author's account of his ambivalent relationship with his father, Phillip, a dedicated medical practitioner, teacher, and infectious disease specialist. In this poignant and candid memoir, Lerner traces his family's roots to Poland. Most of Barron's ancestors came to America before the Holocaust, and once here, they found jobs, established homes, raised families, and worked hard so that their children could succeed in life. Phillip, who was born in Cleveland in 1932, became a brilliant and dedicated physician. He spent countless hours on call, and was usually available whenever a patient or colleague sought his advice.
Dr. Phillip Lerner even provided treatment to his sick relatives. Barron, a highly respected doctor himself, as well as a medical historian and ethicist, insists that it is a conflict of interest for a doctor to treat his loved ones. Nevertheless, Barron's dad thought that he knew best. He was a proponent of "paternalistic" medicine, asserting that it is acceptable for doctors to care for their grandparents, aunts, and cousins. Under certain circumstances, he withheld information from patients about their prognosis and, furthermore, he considered it his duty to help terminally ill patients pass away peacefully.
This is a colorful portrait of an extended family and a close look at the career of a healer who enjoyed what he did until "cookbook medicine," high-tech tests, managed care, and advance medical directives became commonplace. Barron and his father differed on a number of issues. For example, the younger Dr. Lerner is a champion of informed consent and insists that, whenever possible, physicians should confer with their patients and/or next of kin about their medical options.
"The Good Doctor" is a thought-provoking and moving work of non-fiction. Although Dr. Lerner is sometimes critical of his father, he acknowledges his dad's many strong points. Phillip was compassionate and a talented diagnostician. In addition, he showed foresight in recognizing the importance of administering the right antibiotics in carefully managed doses. Another point in the senior doctor's favor was his emotional connection with the men and women who depended on him. Barron knows that Phillip did whatever he could to help his patients, many of whom credit him with saving their lives. For Dr. Phillip Lerner, the practice of medicine was personal. When he and other like-minded physicians passed away, something very precious died with them.