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Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality Paperback – January 8, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
Dr. Chen discusses candidly her first experience with death, when she was a sophomore in college, of her maternal grandfaather. Then in medical school she spent 12 weeks with a cadaver: "My very first patient had beeen dead for over a year before I laid hands on her." She writes about her first patient to die and her inability to contact a dying friend.Read more ›
A few years ago I was part of a poetry group of medical providers. We shared poetry written by or for medical providers that described our work. Most of these poems as it turned it were about the dying, the dead or end-of-life. Our professions had a need to share our profound feelings. Since that time Palliative Care has become a recognized service in many hospitals and communities. Our patients need us and we need each other to share our grief.
Pauline Chen discovered once she was house staff that pronouncing a patient's death was part of her job, the first 'code blue', the first agonizing long death on an intensive care unit, and the day to day life and death of her patients were taking a toll. She was taught it seems to hide her feelings, but then they would not go away and what was she to do? She had an eye-opening experience with a physician who stayed with his patient while he was dying and she realized 'this is what my job is all about." As a transplant physician, Pauline Chen realized that her life and death immersion in very ill patients brought her closer to death than life. As she stated, "zeal to cure is no excuse for failing to communicate prognoses honestly or for sidestepping ongoing dialogue with patients and families as medical events deteriorate." She gives us many examples of her patient experiences and how other physicians reacted to their patient's deaths.Read more ›
Her love of medicine and her genuine appreciation for her patients as people, not just interesting problems, is extremely touching.
Ultimately, she asks questions that dont just apply to medicine, but to society as a whole. How can our secularized society and our culture do a better job of facing death and caring for the dying?
FINAL EXAM is an account of Chen's evolving understanding of what she could and couldn't accomplish as a physician and surgeon. She begins with a description of her "relationship" with the cadaver she was assigned in medical school and goes on to describe a number of patients who died under her care. It is gratifying that she seemed to learn something from each experience and was able to use these experiences to strengthen her skills as a caregiver. Also important to these stories are Chen's descriptions of her relationships with her medical colleagues (including nurses, interns, and medical students) and of the bonds she was able to forge in spite of the impossible schedule and stresses that are unavoidable in that profession. Each story is powerful and moving. And each story made me think about the kind of care I want to receive (and demand) as the end of my life approaches. This is a wise and gentle book. Chen's vision and power of expression come mightily close to the poetry found in S. Nuland's masterpiece, HOW WE DIE, a work Chen is familiar with and quotes from. One can only hope that many doctors will read her reflections and absorb their important message.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Focus on end of life care, facing not just others but even our own mortality in a way that is natural, that is human.Published 1 month ago by Akrita
I can't say this is the best book I have read that has been written by a doctor but it fills the void of wondering if doctors have compassion and at one doc's efforts to question... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Carolyn Dargevics
Excellent book. Very detailed about what a medical student experiences; and how one surgeon's outlook on end-of-life was affected by seeing so much death.Published 4 months ago by Alice La Coy
Should be required reading for anyone who every seeks medical intervention. Ahem...that would be everyone. Read morePublished 5 months ago by C. S.
I loved this book! Graphic description of gross anatomy class, but I was riveted. A must read!Published 10 months ago by Kathy Underwood
Chen's very personal description of her inauguration to the practice of medicine and how her understanding developed during her time as a surgeon is deeply touching and very... Read morePublished 10 months ago by OldEnglish