Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality

Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality

by Pauline W. Chen
4.0 16

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Overview

Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality by Pauline W. Chen

A brilliant transplant surgeon brings compassion and narrative drama to the fearful reality that every doctor must face: the inevitability of mortality.

When Pauline Chen began medical school, she dreamed of saving lives. What she could not predict was how much death would be a part of her work. Almost immediately, she found herself wrestling with medicine’s most profound paradox–that a profession premised on caring for the ill also systematically depersonalizes dying. Final Exam follows Chen over the course of her education and practice as she struggles to reconcile the lessons of her training with her innate sense of empathy and humanity. A superb addition to the best medical literature of our time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307275370
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/08/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 553,160
Product dimensions: 7.96(w) x 5.16(h) x 0.62(d)

About the Author

Pauline W. Chen attended Harvard University and the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and completed her surgical training at Yale University, the National Cancer Institute (National Institutes of Health), and UCLA, where she was most recently a member of the faculty. In 1999, she was named the UCLA Outstanding Physician of the Year. Dr. Chen’s first nationally published piece, “Dead Enough? The Paradox of Brain Death,” appeared in the fall 2005 issue of The Virginia Quarterly Review and was a finalist for a 2006 National Magazine Award. She is also the 2005 cowinner of the Staige D. Blackford Prize for Nonfiction and was a finalist for the 2002 James Kirkwood Prize in Creative Writing. She lives near Boston with her husband and children.

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Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
gaylene21 More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this to be a very interesting book. Clinical, yet far from boring. Personal, that brought me close to tears. I found it easy to like the Dr/Author. This book should have been written decades ago. How to describe and articulate what I think and feel about this book! Easy to read, and everyone should read it! I am surprised it isn't a best seller, unfair for such a wonderful, informative book!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found myself in a B&N bookstore in Atlanta this past weekend and picked up this book off an end cap display. The title intrigued me both because of my interest in surgery and the concept of dying. The only reason I continued to read the entire book after the first chapter was to possibly find a plagiarized paragraph after noting a very simliar sentence refering to 'Jimmy Durante' as to one in a book I read a while ago by Dr. Ira Byock, M.D. The author scatters her thoughts and jumps around the entire book, never fully giving any description justice or fully reflecting on morality like she promised in the title. Its ok though, her first profession is a surgeon and from her biography she sounds like a great one. Her experiences are definitely interesting, but she really does not convey them properly. Overall, I was disappointed with her lack of originality, the disjointedness of the chapters, and complete lack of literary skill and poise.