May 7, 2012 11:33 am
Two new books, Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science by Michael Brooks and Ignorance: How It Drives Science by Stuart Firestein, propose another strategy: Instead of trying to hide their uncertainties, scientists should assert them. It’s time they showed their foibles and flaws for all to see.
May 1, 2012 11:05 am
Doctors who become ill have written about the emotional whiplash of the experience so often that the “had I but known” theme has grown a little old. Two new books bring some welcome variation: Many other professionals spend their workdays focused on the body, and even those who don’t actually perform hands-on care may find precious assumptions demolished by serious illness.
April 26, 2012 9:36 pm
Let me acknowledge that perhaps not everyone wants to settle down in a comfy chair with a glass of wine, a purring cat, and 22 very personal essays about death and dying. My daughter has taken to asking me whether I wouldn’t rather read — or write — about puppies and kittens. But a new anthology called “At the End of Life: True Stories About How We Die”contains some truly gripping narratives that illuminate a hard truth about death in our culture: it is always so complicated, so much thornier than we think. A good death appears to require as much effort and commitment, from many parties, as a good life. And it happens much less often.
April 25, 2012 11:19 am
Medical ethics is not without its controversies, yet some doctrines in the field have near-universal acceptance. Three such prevailing beliefs are (1) that donors of vital organs (heart, liver, lungs, and both kidneys) must be dead before organs can be removed for life-saving transplantation; (2) that critically ill and dying patients die of their illnesses once life-sustaining efforts are withdrawn (not from treatment removal); and (3) that individuals exhibiting brain death are dead. Death, Dying, and Organ Transplantation: Reconstructing Medical Ethics at the End of Life challenges these and other precepts in a thoughtful, well-reasoned, and compelling manner.
April 17, 2012 10:43 pm
While some people think doctors see themselves as gods, oblivious to their mistakes, the behind-the-scenes reality tends to be quite different. In regular meetings called “morbidity and mortality” (or M&M, for short), doctors close the doors and candidly discuss their mistakes and try to learn from them. The meetings can be full of ruthless — and helpful — self-flagellation.
March 28, 2012 4:10 pm
In recent years, bioethics has become a rather stale academic enterprise, in which either widely accepted formal principles are applied in tedious detail to progressively narrower questions regarding advances in medical technology, or else sanctimonious philosophers chide the uneducated masses for failing to see how irrational it is for them to continue to believe that anything medical science does is really morally wrong. Jeffrey Bishop, a physician and philosopher, has written a book that dramatically alters that landscape. The Anticipatory Corpse is interesting, provocative and important—one of the most novel contributions to the field of bioethics of the last several decades. Bishop has many illuminating new things to say about the ethics of medical care for the dying. In the process, he helps to explain why bioethics itself is in such a sad state.