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Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality

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  • Posted March 16, 2009

    Excellent book

    Pauline Chen speaks candidly about how doctors are ill-equipped to handle patients' end of life care and how some doctors have found their own ways to help patients through this tough time through their own trial and error process. The book is not nearly as morbid as one might think upon first glance. Chen is an excellent and engaging writer.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2008

    Final Exam: Captivating and Timeless

    Final Exam is a captivating book that opens the door into medical school and the inward fight of a surgeon. Chen's honest confessions and frustrations with time and medical policies encourage the reader to fight for a change in the way society handles the dying and death. The audience is people involved in the medical field or striving to be¿but anyone can thoroughly enjoy it. She speaks of real life cases and the struggles and difficulties of a being in a profession aiming to cure. Final Exam is a timeless account of something we all have to deal with. It provides insight and sympathy with an issue no one enjoys discussing: death. It¿s a quick read¿I highly suggest it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2007

    Surprisingly Frank

    This is an outstanding book by an outstanding surgeon. She does a great job of expressing both the triumphs and the sadness involved in her profession.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2007

    A reviewer

    Final Exam: A Surgeon¿s Reflection on Mortality, by Pauline Chen. I first came across this surgeon in the splendid Virginia Quarterly Review, and her thoughtful, moving writing guaranteed that I¿d pick up this book. Her tender reflections on end-of-life care, not to mention her honest discussion of dealing with people who have no choice but to view life from the vantage point of the end, is an illuminating meditation on the relationship between medicine and mortality. Chen¿s book is a vivid reminder of the necessity of compassion in our technology-driven age.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2007

    An honest look at the shortcomings of medical training

    I really liked this book and found it absorbing reading. It is a fascinating look at the interior life of a surgeon and a very honest look at how the detachtment required of a surgeon can be so great that genuine compassion is lost. Dr. Chen is to be commended for her ability to learn from the times she blew it with patients and to continue to move closer to those tough places where none of us want to go, in particular when the medical options have pretty well run out.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2007

    Compelling story--Not just for doctors

    This is a great book in several ways: 1' as a personal story of some one falling short of their expectations and then finding their way back, 2' as a glance into what medical training feels like, and 3' as an examination of why doctors and patients don't talk more about death/the dying process. This book is not just for doctors or medical students. Some of the passages are incredibly beautiful, and the patient profiles are powerful--in just a few pages, I came to really care about the people. I am truly impressed by Dr. Chen's ability to observe and communicate the key details of a situation, her ability to make scenes and people real to me. Sometimes, I could FEEL her exhaust as she went through her training 'there is a great description of the SMELL of exhaust.' To give you a better idea, I have typed in a passage below. Each time I read it, I again think, 'Wow.' 'and I wish there was some way I could have the same experience'. From pages 102-103 If you poke a hole from the belly into the diaphragm and, with your fingers, clear away the cobweblike tissues that separate the heart from the spine, there will be just enough space back there to fit your entire arm. And if you put a small incision along the base of the neck, as you do when you remove an esophagus, you might even see, if your forearm is long enough, the tips of your fingers poking out while your elbow remains enveloped by the soft, rubbery stomach and a flap of liver. It¿s tempting to leave your arm in that warm, reassuring space. On the back of the forearm, you can feel the hardness of the vertebral bones, at the tips of the fingers, the coolness of open air, and at the elbow, the slithering contractions of the small bowel. But what you will marvel at most, and what will make you keep your arm there for just a few seconds longer than you probably should, is the sensation you notice against the patch of skin on the underside of your wrist, the most tender area where mothers gauge the temperature of milk for their babies. Against that small swath of skin, and squirming of its own accord, you will feel the strong, twisting contractions of the heart. And it will remind you as you look down at the open belly and warm skin and bloodstained instruments on the table that the person whose body embraces you is very much alive.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2011

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    Posted January 19, 2012

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