Sunday, February 18, 2007

Final Exam Book Review By Detroit Hospice Volunteer

Dr. Pauline Chen, author of Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality, is a doctor who "gets" it. She understands that doctors can only do their best, that they won’t save every patient and that, in the natural order of life, they have not failed when their patients die. She realizes that doctors are just like other people and that in our common humanity, we often share similar needs. Finally, she knows that death can be a difficult journey, but consoling words can be powerful rest stops along the way.

In Final Exam, Dr. Chen takes the reader through her evolution with perceptions of death and mortality. She discusses personal feelings regarding her first dissection of a human cadaver. Later, she assumes responsibility for the accidental death of a patient in her care. Ultimately, she concludes that the role of doctors with patients and their loved ones should include more of the emotional comfort that traditionally has been missing too often. She adds that medical schools should educate doctors more in these caregiving strategies.

This book has important implications for hospice care. If doctors embrace Dr. Chen’s way of thinking, they will replace their feelings of failure when patients can no longer be cured with feelings of commitment to non-curative hospice care. They will recommend these options to patients more readily and increase the number of patients receiving quality health care at the end of their lives. In other words, they will “get” it and be comfortable with that knowledge.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback at many booksellers and in e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble booksellers.

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