Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Soul of Medicine (2009)

by Sherwin Nuland
In his essay Nurse and Patient, Osler wrote "To talk of disease is an Arabian Nights' entertainment." While, this book is not exactly a pathography, many of you will want to spend some time with it, since it's a great read and gives insight to both the illness experience and the mind-set of doctors.

For "The Soul of Medicine," Nuland has asked 16 physicians to tell the story of their most memorable patient and, with two of his own additions, cobbled them together into a modern-day version of "The Canterbury Tales." Here, Canterbury is the fictionalized name of the prestigious medical institution where our storytellers' practices intersect, and the tales themselves are delivered by specialty: The Urologist's Tale, The Pediatrician's Tale and so on.

The Soul of Medicine is comprised of 21 short "Illness Narratives," each told in the voice of a different medical specialist. Most are fascinating (at least to other physicians). One wonders if a similar book with chapters told by patients with different disorders might even be better. One thinks of Mandel and Spiro's When Doctors Get Sick (a memorable compendium) in this context.