- Hardcover: 172 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; First Edition edition (December 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226788695
- ISBN-13: 978-0226788692
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #994,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Catharsis: On the Art of Medicine First Edition Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Szczeklik, a professor at the School of Medicine at Jagiellonian University, Poland, applies an art critic's sensibilities to the practice of medicine in this thin but intellectually dense volume. In his philosophical consideration of medicine and humanity, Szczeklik draws on Greek myth, history and the arts to explore the nature of medicine, describing the startling archetypes that appear across different cultures, times and circumstances: dreams, the search for immortality, or the symbolism of entwined serpents, from the caduceus to DNA's serpentine spiral. He also draws on personal experiences to illustrate the challenges and surprises doctors encounter. These anecdotes help describe the toll of suffering and the specter of death, both of which lie at the heart of medicine. He notes that it is only very recently that people have been sedated when they die and no longer "experience" death as, for example, Chopin did at a time when death was experienced in the "sufferer's consciousness." Something of a poet himself, Szczeklik says, "Scientists have a soft spot for metaphors and are often as sensitive to them as poets." Apt metaphors, he continues, have "contributed to the development of science just as much as rigorous conclusions based on objective data."
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Top Customer Reviews
As one might expect of a poet, that pretty much says it all.
One of America's most prominent doctors strongly recommended this book to me; the doctor's wife is a well-known humanities scholar, so when he told me that this book is a deeply cultured reflection on the mysteries that a doctor confronts in his career I was eager to read the book.
I've read it twice now, and I must say that the first time I was a little disappointed. Yes, it is an elegant, interesting, gracefully written meditation on the mysteries of life and death, the blankness of suffering and extinction and the human desire to envelop those experiences with meaning and morality. But it is not some kind of intellectually persuasive argument that takes one through a chain of unbroken logic.
Thinking about the book and my reaction, I realised that the answer probably lies with Polanyi's concept of "tacit knowledge". Polanyi demonstrates that most of what we know we would struggle to communicate intellectually, from something as simple as a tennis swing to our judgments about the most difficult and stressful situations.
The real value of this book, I have realised, is that Dr. Szezeklik, after a lifetime of healing and failing to heal, of saving lives and witnessing death, still believes in the spiritual and intellectual and emotional connections with illness and death, and he sincerely believes in the transcendent meaning of what we experience in life.
This must have been what impressed the American doctor who told me about the book. CATHARSIS is not some kind of logical juggernaut--it is an elegant and cultured report back from the mysterious ground between life and death.
Any medical history will show how medecine derived from magic. ('Incantations are excellent for remedies and remedies are good for incantations': Edwin Smith Papyrus.) Szczeklik can't quite leave the magic behind.
I found Catharsis: On the Art of Medicine to be a very interesting, informative, and readable book on a subject, medicine, which is sometimes difficult for the ordinary reader. It offers many nuances not often covered in medical or general information. I am purchasing this book for my daughter, an E. R. physician. From conversations with her, I have seen that diagnosis is a very intuitive, almost magical art. Andrzej Szczeklik's book adds the weight of historical evidence to her personal anecdotes, helping me to see her, and all physicians, in a new light.
As Physician, Teacher, Healer, Professor, and Dean, he helped transform medicine education in central Europe. He kept the Jagiellonian University Medical School functioning through the period of martial law and helped it emerge as an internationally recognized center of medical excellence.
Prof. Szczeklik was my teacher and mentor 1979-1982 in Poland during the clinical years of my medical studies. He has been a role model for my medical practice over the last 30 years.
We are sorry for his passing, but glad for the legacy he left behind.