Synopses & Reviews
A look at the emotional side of medicine—the shame, fear, anger, anxiety, empathy, and even love that affect patient care
The quality of medical care is influenced by what doctors feel, an aspect of medicine that is usually left out of discussions of health care today. Drawing on scientific studies, as well as on real-life stories from other physicians and her own medical practice, Dr. Danielle Ofri examines the impact of emotions on medical care. Contemporary media portrayals of doctors focus on the decision making and medical techniques, reinforcing an image of rational, unflinching doctors. But though the challenges in medicine are unique, doctors respond with the same emotions as the rest of us—shame, anger, empathy, frustration, hope, pride, occasionally despair, and sometimes even love. With her renowned eye for dramatic detail, Dr. Ofri takes us into the swirling heart of patient care. She faces the humiliation of an error that nearly killed one of her patients and the forever fear of making another. She mourns when a long-time patient is denied a heart transplant. And she tells the riveting stories of doctors who have faced their own death, have faced a newborn dying in their arms, have faced the glares of lawyers. Emotions have a distinct effect on a doctor’s behavior and how they care for their patients. For both doctors and patients, understanding this can make all the difference in ensuring effective medical treatment.
Praise for Danielle Ofri
“The world of patient and doctor exists in a special sacred space. Danielle Ofri brings us into that place where science and the soul meet. Her vivid and moving prose enriches the mind and turns the heart.” —Jerome Groopman, author of How Doctors Think
“Danielle Ofri is a finely gifted writer, a born storyteller as well as a born physician.” —Oliver Sacks, author of Awakenings
“Danielle Ofri … is dogged, perceptive, unafraid, and willing to probe her own motives, as well as those of others. This is what it takes for a good physician to arrive at the truth, and these same qualities make her an essayist of the first order.” —Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone
“Danielle Ofri has so much to say about the remarkable intimacies between doctor and patient, about the bonds and the barriers, and above all about how doctors come to understand their powers and their limitations.” —Perri Klass, MD, author of A Not Entirely Benign Procedure
“Her writing tumbles forth with color and emotion. She demonstrates an ear for dialogue, a humility about the limits of her medical training, and an extraordinary capacity to be touched by human suffering.” —Jan Gardner, Boston Globe
"Ofri (Medicine in Translation: Journeys with My Patients) offers an eloquent and honest take on the inner life of medical professionals, describing not only her own bumpy path from med student to M.D., but also the difficulty of maintaining empathy for patients over the years. 'Emotional layers' in medicine are more subtle and pervasive than anyone wants to believe, and they often become the 'dominant players in medical decision-making,' she argues. Ofri uses the story of illegal immigrant Julia and her battle with congestive heart failure as a jumping-off point for discussing how doctors handle emotionally complicated cases. From the reluctance of Julia's medical team to deliver her 'death sentence' to a happy conclusion following the persistence of her hospital team, Ofri celebrates the rare occasions 'of joy in our profession' while investigating the 'documented decline in empathy' shown to begin in med school. Not every doctor becomes hardened, though many lose their way (the author describes an ER doc who was canned for being drunk on the job). Ofri heaps praise on one M.D. who sagely advises that 'it is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.' Ofri's passionate examination of her own fears and doubts alongside broader concerns within the medical field should be eye-opening for the public and required reading for medical students. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD is an associate professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine and has cared for patients at New York’s Bellevue Hospital for more than two decades. She is the author of Singular Intimacies: Becoming a Doctor at Bellevue, Incidental Findings: Lessons from My Patients in the Art of Medicine, and Medicine in Translation: Journeys with My Patients. Dr. Ofri is a regular contributor to the New York Times’ Well blog as well as the Times’ “Science Times” section and the New England Journal of Medicine. Her writings have appeared in Best American Essays and Best American Science Writing. She is the editor in chief of the Bellevue Literary Review. Dr. Ofri lives in New York City with her husband, three children, and their loyal lab mutt.
Table of Contents
Intoduction: Why Doctors Act That Way
Chapter 1: The Doctor Can't See You Now
Julia, part one
Chapter 2: We Build a Better Doctor?
Julia, part two
Chapter 3: Scared Witless
Julia, part three
Chapter 4: A Daily Dose of Death
Julia, part four
Chapter 5: Burning with Shame
Julia, part five
Chapter 6: Drowning
Julia, part six
Chapter 7: Under the Microscope
Julia, part seven