cover image Soul of Medicine: Tales from the Bedside

Soul of Medicine: Tales from the Bedside

Sherwin B. Nuland, . . Kaplan, $26.95 (214pp) ISBN 978-1-60714-055-9

National Book Award–winner Nuland (How We Die ) turns over his latest collection to the stories of more than a dozen specialists describing their most memorable patients. What is extraordinary about Nuland's compilation is not the medical heroics but the instances of fallibility and vulnerability that prove the doctor is not just human but caring. A bronchoscopist tells of a famed thoracic surgeon who botches a procedure to recover a small cap a child has swallowed “Well, chappies,” he chirped, “here's my chance to demonstrate the procedure again. Rather like a double feature at the cinema, yes?” When that, too, fails, the frustrated surgeon must do major surgery to rectify what should have been a 10-minute fix. Even the scoundrel who gets a nurse fired rather than be caught in his own impropriety shows a recognizable humanity in his hilarious retelling of barging into a procedure unwashed and unwanted, and being chased from the premises by a mad-as-hell surgeon. Nuland adds his own commentary after many of the stories, but it's just window dressing. Here's medicine as it's actually practiced—by humans awed by the privilege of both their practice and patients. (Apr.)