In 1988, Marianne Paget published The Unity of Mistakes: A Phenomenological Interpretation of Medical Work (Temple) in which she argued that error is an intrinsic feature of medicine - an experimental and uncertain activity. Her subsequent research focused on medical negligence and on miscommunication and silence as a cause and product of error in medicine. While pursuing her research on negligence, she found out that she was an example of it. Chronic back pain that had been misdiagnosed as muscle spasms turned out to be a symptom of a rare and fatal cancer that claimed Paget's life in December 1989. This collection of her personal and professional writings on the phenomenon of error in medicine chronicles a young scholar's courageous struggle to make sense of a tragic coincidence. Discovering that she was living the charged and painful topic that she had studied so deeply, Paget wrote poignantly and analytically until the last week of her life about this uncanny parallel. "It is very tricky to come to terms with the reality of death without becoming trapped in that reality," wrote "Tracy" Paget to her friends. In this book, she describes "the odd way my life began to mirror my work"; her search for "life rites" when faced with tasks involving wills, last rites, and farewells; and her indomitable and forthright attempt to remain intensely alive in the face of death. A Complex Sorrow, her final project, comprises essays, letters, and a journal recording her last year. Ever critical of the distanced and dispassionate stance taken in much social analysis, Paget had experimented with performance as a form for enlivening social science research. The script for her play, "The Work of Talk," about communication problems between a physician and his cancer patient, is also included. Her compelling life-text speaks to those living with illness and those who care for and about them, as well as to social scientists committed to the investigation and representation of lived
Paget was a social scientist whose scholarly work on medical errors ( The Unity of Mistakes , Temple Univ. Pr., 1988) as well as her experimental drama, ``The Work of Talk,'' on miscommunication between doctor and cancer patient, strangely presaged her own tragic misdiagnosis; what doctors told her were muscle spasms proved to be fatal cancer. Paget's final project was to analyze her predicament in this collection of scholarly essays, her play's script, letters to friends, and personal journal entries. The mix is unsettling; much of the book is coolly analytical, and yet it ends with these words written days before her death: ``too much pain.'' For collections in medical sociology.-- Judith Eannarino, Washington, D.C.