Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality

Pauline W. Chen, Author . Knopf $23.95 (268p) ISBN 978-0-307-26353-7

Like most physicians, Chen, a transplant surgeon and former UCLA faculty member, entered medicine in order to save lives. But as a medical student in the 1980s, she discovered that she had to face death repeatedly and "found disturbing inconsistencies" as she learned from teachers and colleagues "to suspend or suppress any shared human feelings for my dying patients." Chen writes with immaculately honed prose and moral passion as she recounts her quest to overcome "lessons in denial and depersonalization," vividly evoking the paradoxes of end-of-life care in an age of life-preserving treatments. Chen charts her personal and professional rites of passage in dealing with mortality, from her first dissection of a human cadaver, through the first time she pronounces a patient dead, to having to officially took responsibility for the accidental death of a patient in her care. Focusing on the enormous moral and psychological pressures on doctors and on the need for greater empathy in hospital end-of-life care, Chen also reports on signs of change within the profession, stemming from both criticisms of training and institutions and from physicians' initiatives to bring a greater sense of shared humanity to their work. Announced first printing of 75,000. (Jan. 17)

Reviewed on: 11/20/2006
Release date: 01/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-285-63811-2
Open Ebook - 165 pages - 978-0-307-26728-3
Paperback - 267 pages - 978-0-307-27537-0
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