Life in Medicine: A Literary Anthology

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A stirring collection of stories, poems, and essays on all aspects of the medical profession, from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the "Children of Crisis" series. A century of unprecedented scientific advances has left the medical profession facing profound ethical and procedural crises, as doctors, nurses, hospice workers, psychiatrists, and others involved in the healing arts struggle to keep up with the science while staying true to the humanitarian goals at the heart of their work. A Life in Medicine explores questions such as, "What is a 'small, good thing' in medicine?" "Can patients be instruments of grace?" and "How does one muster one's compassion for (so-called) 'difficult' patients?," bringing together provocative and moving writing on the moral and ethical lives of physicians, nurses, and psychiatrists, and injecting a dose of contemporary reality into a centuries-old discussion. The book is organized around the central themes of altruism, knowledge, skill, and duty, and contributors include well-known writers, doctors, nurses, practitioners, and patients, who address life and death, cancer and AIDS, seizures and psychosis, advocacy and anatomy, from both ends of the stethoscope.

With stories by: Raymond Carver • Anton Chekhov • Shusaku Endo • Anne Fadiman • Laurie Moore • William Carlos Williams

Poems by: • Hart Crane • Walt Whitman • Raymond Carver

And essays by: • Wendell Berry • Robert Coles • Robert Jay Lifton • Sara Lawrence Lightfoot • Audre Lorde • Lewis Thomas • Albert Schweitzer • Terry Tempest Williams

and others.

Author Biography: Robert Coles is a child psychiatrist, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and Harvard University professor. For his lifelong work on behalf of children, Coles received the Medal of Freedom from President Clinton. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts. Randy Testa is on the professional development staff at the Ross School in East Hampton, New York. He is at work on a book about preschool teacher Vivian Gussin Paley. He lives on Shelter Island, New York.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This compilation of essays, poems, short stories, memoirs, and a play excerpt, edited by child psychiatrist Coles (Harvard Medical Sch.; Spiritual Life of Children) and literature and ethics professor Testa (Harvard and Dartmouth), reflects on the human side of medicine. The book includes pieces by famous writers (Raymond Carver, Hart Crane, Anton Chekhov, Mikhail Bulgakov, William Carlos Williams, etc.) as well as by the lesser known, most of whom are surgeons, psychiatrists, nurses, and midwives. The book is divided into four sections, with each part focusing on a particular quality that a physician must have (altruism, knowledge, skill, and a sense of duty). All of the selections reflect a concern for the human aspects of medicine and espouse the rights of the patient over the rigidity of the medical establishment. This anthology will be most useful for colleges that have medical ethics courses; the general reader will likely be less interested in such readings, excellent though they are. Recommended primarily for university libraries that support medical curricula. Morris Hounion, New York City Technical Coll. Lib., Brooklyn Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From The Critics
Teachers of literature and medicine courses compile 52 stories, poems, and essays portraying relationships between patients and health care professionals. Some are by doctors and nurses, others by laypeople. Albert Schweitzer, Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, Anton Checkov, Mikhail Bulgakov, William Carlos Williams, and Wendell Berry are among the authors. There is no index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565847293
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 6/1/2002
  • Pages: 329
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.42 (h) x 1.26 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Coles is a psychiatrist and writer. Until recently, he was the James Agee Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard University. He is a co-editor, with Randy Testa, of A Life in Medicine: A Literary Anthology and Growing Up Poor: A Literary Anthology; a co-editor, with Albert LaFarge, of Minding the Store: Great Writing About Business, from Tolstoy to Now; and the author of Lives We Carry with Us: Profiles of Moral Courage, edited by David D. Cooper, all published by The New Press. His many books also include The Moral Intelligence of Children and Bruce Springsteen’s America: The People Listening, a Poet Singing. Coles received a Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for his acclaimed five-volume Children of Crisis series, a MacArthur Award in 1981, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998, and the National Humanities Medal in 2001. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts.

Randy Testa has taught literature and medical ethics at Harvard and Dartmouth Medical Schools. He is an editor at Doubletake magazine and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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