2008; Volume 9, No 7, July

Roger Woodruff, MD


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Hospice Palliative Care Book Reviews &
The Palliative Care Book of the Month

Roger Woodruff, MD

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Book of the Month


Mari Lloyd-Williams  (Ed)
Oxford University Press, 2008
ISBN 978-0-19-921642-0
261 pp
RRP £27.95, $US55.00

This is the second edition of Mari Lloyd-Williams’ book on the psychosocial aspects of palliative care.  Unfortunately, as most of my library is temporarily in storage, I was not able to make a direct comparison with the first edition.  The material has been updated and considerably expanded.  There are new chapters on psychotherapeutic methods and the provision of palliative care for patients with specific difficulties.  I thought it a fitting tribute that the chapters from the first edition by Frances Sheldon and Peter Maguire, tragically no longer with us, were retained.  As I noted previously, reading this book will be of benefit to any and all of the members of the palliative care team.  It will improve their insight into the psychosocial distress suffered by our patients and their families, and better equip them to deal with it.  This book will be an important addition to your palliative care service library.

Roger Woodruff (Australia)
(June 2008)

Book Reviews


Simon Critchley
Granta Books (UK), and Melbourne University Press, 2008
298 pp
ISBN 978 184708 01 03 (UK), 978 0 522 85514 2 (Aus.), 978 0 307 39043-1 (US)
RRP £15.00, $AU29.95, $US14.95.

Cicero said, ‘To philosophise is to learn how to die’, and it was said that only when one had come to terms with one’s own mortality that one was really able to live.  This fascinating book by Simon Critchley, Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York, is about 190-or-so dead philosophers, from antiquity to recent times, how they died and what philosophy can teach us about the appropriate attitude to death and dying.  The 190-or-so snapshots presented by Critchley encapsulate their philosophical thinking on a background of their personal and medical circumstances.  Some of the tales are funny, some are tragic.  But Critchley manages to make it all interesting and the characters very much alive and I thoroughly enjoyed dipping into this book.


A Handbook for Adults

Atle Dyregrov
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2008
207 pp
ISBN 978 1-84310-612-8
RRP $AU39.95, $US24.95, £12.65

Review copy supplied by Footprint Books www.footprint.com.au
With the use of many quotes and little vignettes, this book describes children’s reactions to grief and crisis at different ages and to different types of deaths.  It provides clear guidelines for how the child can best be helped to cope at home and at school.  There is also a chapter on what makes grief worse and recommendations about when it is appropriate to seek professional help.  In the foreword, the book is described as ‘the most sympathetically written and accessible book on the topic’ of childhood grief.  It is the best that I have seen and I think this book would be a great help to any adult dealing with a grieving child. 



Paul Glare and Nicholas A. Christakis (Eds)
Oxford University Press, 2008
439 pp
ISBN 978-0-19-853022-0
RRP $US79.95, 39.95

As a medical oncologist-cum-palliative care physician, I thought this book would be right up my alley.  I have always said that treatment must be appropriate to the stage of the patient’s disease and the prognosis, although the foibles of prognostication are well known. 

A preface, setting out the scope and goals of the book, would have been very useful. The first section of the book is about the science behind prognostication in cancer.  I found it a bit dull except for some startling terminology, such as ‘…diagnostical and therapeutical skills …’, which I had never heard before and couldn’t find in the publisher’s own dictionary.  There was too much overlapping between chapters—how to communicate a prognosis was described in several different chapters.

Section II discusses prognostication in fifteen common cancers.  I thought some of the discussions lacked detail, particularly with regard to the prognostic effect of newer treatments.  In the chapters on lung and colorectal cancers, tyrosine kinase inhibitors (e.g. gefitinib) and epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors (e.g. cetuximab) were not mentioned.  The discussion of monoclonal antibodies in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is superficial.

The third section is about prognosis in palliative care.  There are chapters on various clinical syndromes from bone metastases to spinal cord compression to delirium to weight loss.  Focused on prognostic factors, some of the chapters were well written, but the medical oncologist in me felt that the vast array of different cancers and different clinical situations were being pigeon-holed. 

My feeling was that this book was a good idea but felt the chapters in the second and third sections lacked clinical detail. But to be useful for quick reference on a day-to-day basis, I think it needs more lists and less prose.


An At-home Guide for Patients and Families

American Cancer Society, 2008
154 pp
ISBN 978-0-944235-92-8
RRP $US14.95, £10.50. www.cancer.org

This book provides clear and concise advice about 48 common symptoms, from Anxiety to Weight loss.  For each there is a list of what the patient can do, what the caregivers can do, and when to call the doctor.  The section on Hospice Care is particularly good and details the changes that may be observed as death approaches.  If you give cancer patients and their families lists of where they may find other written information, this little book should be near the top. 


A Guide for Patients and Their Families

Pam McGrath
Researchman Publications, 2008
118 pp
ISBN 978 097754 0525

RRP Australian purchases $AU33.95 (includes postage)

International purchases SAU35.05 (includes postage)

Available at www.ipp-shr.cqu.edu.au

The diagnosis and treatment of haematological malignancies frequently stands normal life on its head for the patients and their families.  This excellent little book is for them.  It describes the physical aspects of care but also has chapters on emotional matters, support issues, family problems, financial matters, survivorship, palliative care, and grief.  There are three very useful appendices that briefly describe the various haematological malignancies, provide general information about chemotherapy, radiation and bone marrow transplantation, and a glossary of haematological terminology.  The book is clearly written and will provide patients and their families with a tremendous amount of support—allowing them some feeling of normalcy and being better able to understand what is going on when everything seems upside-down. 


Roger Woodruff (Australia)
Former Chair IAHPC, Australia
(June 2008)

Note for authors: If you wish to have your book reviewed, please send to:

Dr Roger Woodruff
IAHPC Bookshop Editor
210 Burgundy St, Suite 9
Heidelberg, Victoria 3084

Note: Review copies become property of IAHPC and are not returned to the author. Only palliative care related books which are previously approved will be reviewed. Due to the large number of requests, we can't provide exact dates of when books will be reviewed.

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