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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Death of the Good Doctor

Death of the Good Doctor: Lessons from the Heart of the AIDS Epidemic Death of the Good Doctor: Lessons from the Heart of the AIDS Epidemic by Kate Scannell

I read this one as part of what is essentially and "exchange program" between myself and my girlfriend. I agreed to read this, which she marks as one of her favorite books of all time, and she agreed to read the Lord of the Rings. Frankly, I got the easier end of that bargain!

Still, I cannot find fault with her for liking this book, as it's actually a very good piece of work.

The book chronicles Dr. Scannell's experiences working in an AIDS ward starting in the early 1980's. There was little understanding of the nature of the virus, and not terribly much understanding of the people who were infected by it. In dealing with her patients, Scannell ends up confronting a lot of her beliefs about medicine, mortality, and existence as a whole.

This is not a linear narrative: instead, it's a series of short vignette's, each focusing on a different patient and Dr. Scannell's personal experiences with or of that patient and the people around them. As with all books that are collections of short stories, some of the stories are more powerful, more horrific, or more engaging than others, but they are all written in an interesting and engaging fashion. Scannell writes smoothly and honestly about her experiences, in a way that honors the suffering her patients have gone through, while at the same time not descending into melodrama. Even at the end, when Scannell finds herself faced the possibility of her own death, the writing remains clear, lucid, and engaging.

Not, perhaps, the most cheerful book on my shelves, but one definitely worth reading and thinking about.