2008; Volume 9, No 12, December

Roger Woodruff, MD


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Palliative Care Book of the Month and Book Reviews


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Palliative Care Book of the Month


Declan Walsh et al (Eds)

Saunders Elsevier, 2008
1475 pp
ISBN 978-0-323-04021-1
Standard text and online
$AU225, $US195, £89
Premium edition – text and enhanced online
$AU285, $US249, £118

Review copy supplied by Elsevier Australia www.shop.elsevier.com.au

This book represents a monumental achievement.  254 chapters written by 403 authors from 23 countries and six continents. 

To provide you with some idea of the scope of the book, I will summarise the Table of Contents.  Part I is about Principles with sections on palliative medicine, psychosocial care, bioethics, education, research, administration, quality and health professionals.  Part II is about The Patient and includes sections on patient evaluation, investigations, co-morbidities, complications of advanced disease, infections, procedures and devices, nutrition, communication and decision making.  Part III is about Drugs and Symptoms and includes sections on drugs, symptom control, care of the imminently dying and complementary and alternative medicines.  Part IV is about Palliative Care and General Medicine and includes sections on complex illnesses, neuromuscular disorders, pediatrics, geriatrics and AIDS.  Part V is on Palliative Medicine in Cancer and includes sections on cancer, complications, cancer-related syndromes, anti-tumor therapy and cancer pain. 

The sections that I browsed seemed to be well-written, up to date and well referenced.  There is reasonable use of headings, tables, lists and illustrations. 

What really sets this book apart is the online version.  The complete text is available and is searchable.  My enquiry for ‘osteonecrosis of the jaw’ (being a complication of bisphosphonate therapy) returned a list of eight places where the term was used.  Clicking on these took you to the page in question with the search words highlighted.  Clicking on a reference took you to the reference list at the end of the chapter and with another click, brought up the PubMed citation.  Very, very impressive. 

My Premium Edition included updates available on the website.  There were three listed since publication, the last being a critical review of the use of nebulised furosemide in the treatment of dyspnoea. I am not sure this feature is worth the extra money, and only time will reflect the diligence of the authors to provide updates on their material.

So, how does this book compare with the Oxford Textbook of Palliative Medicine (OTPM)? In attempting to answer this, I need to declare that I am a contributor to the OTPM.  Both have set out to be comprehensive in scope and detail.  The availability of the material in a searchable form, online, with links to PubMed, is a big plus for Elsevier.  The order in which the material is presented is different in the Elsevier book and that makes it, at least initially, a little less comfortable to use. The OTPM has a smoothness born of three editions. The chapters in Elsevier are relatively short and I felt the information had been a bit fragmented. For example, there is a chapter on Opioids in the Drugs and Symptoms section, but it is not possible to present all you need to know about opioids and palliative care in five pages. There were three further chapters on Opioids in the section on Cancer Pain, which I thought were more useful. I was also struck by the way some of the chapters are listed. In the Drugs and Symptoms section, the order seems random and there has been no attempt to group those dealing with analgesics, or those with gastrointestinal problems, etc. Looked a bit untidy to me, but perhaps such quibbles are irrelevant if you are searching for the information you want with your mouse.

And the cost? The standard (text and online) Elsevier ($AU225, $US195, £89) is more expensive than the currently available paperback OTPM3e ($AU200, $US129.50, £74). But if the OTPM4e due out in 2009 is initially produced as hard-back only (as occurred with the first three editions) and the cost is in the same ball-park as 2003 ($AU485, $US198.50, £150), the Elsevier volume will be significantly cheaper.

Roger Woodruff
(November, 2008)

Book Reviews


James Beattie and Sarah Goodlin (Eds)

Oxford University Press, 2008
491 pp
ISBN 978-0-19-857028-8
RRP £59.95, $US125.00

This book is about the integration of the principles of palliative medicine into the management of the increasing numbers of patients with chronic heart failure.  It sets out clearly the benefits (for both the patient and their family and for the health system) of a multidisciplinary team approach to provide holistic care for these patients.  For clinicians who do not work in such a team or have one available, I was interested in their exploration of the creation of a virtual team.

The first part of the book deals with the epidemiology, pathophysiology and evidence-based management of heart failure.  Part Two deals with the symptom burden from dyspnoea to fatigue, cardiac cachexia to cognitive impairment.  Interestingly, for a book to be read by cardiologists, there are chapters on depression, spiritual issues, the last few days of life, and bereavement support.  The third section of the book deals with prognostication and communication, including decision making, ethical dilemmas and there is a discussion about physicians’ coping with their patients’ death. 

I think this book explores what will be new ground for many cardiologists.  If a patient under my care dies, I automatically send a note to all the other doctors involved in the patient’s care, explaining the circumstances and indicating that I will follow-up with the family.  But in all my years of practice I have never received a similar note from a cardiologist when a patient with whom I had been involved had died under their care.  This book should be required reading for all cardiology trainees and their teachers.  It will also be a useful reference for all the other members of the multidisciplinary Heart Failure Team.  And it will be a useful addition to the Palliative Care Unit library.

The resource guide for home health and hospice nurses

Carol O. Long and Bonnie M. Morgan (Eds)

Hopkins Medical Products, 2008
172 pp
ISBN 978-0-9788865-0-9
RRP $US59.95
Not listed on amazon.com or amzon.co.uk.
Available at  www.hmponline.com

This is an immensely practical guide on all aspects of pain management for nurses.  It is a well-presented composite of current standards, practices, protocols and guidelines.  There are chapters on clinical competency and pain management, conducting a patient-specific pain assessment, determining pain diagnoses or problems, creating a plan of care with the patient as a partner, implementing the plan of care including patient teaching tools and evaluating outcomes.  The liberal use of headings, lists and tables invites easy access to the information.  In the classroom, this would be an excellent text for teaching a holistic approach to pain management and I suspect it would be just as valuable at the bedside or in the patient’s home.

Exploring a new dimension to grief

Leslee Tessmann

Loving Healing Press, 2008
140 pp
ISBN 978-1-932690-53-8
RRP $US17.95, £9.95

‘Sacred Grief offers an intriguing exploration of the far-reaching ripple effect of our present-day opinions about surviving grief’s emotional roller-coaster and the unnecessary suffering our judgments unconsciously promote.  You will find comfort in discovering that there is another dimension to this universal experience – a dimension that fosters trust, kindness and compassion, that peacefully heals and steadfastly moves you towards your soul’s deepest desires and dreams.’  That’s what the back cover says. It is a quite different handbook that is not about the process of grief but our attitude to it.


Ronald J. Greer

Dimensions for Living, Abingdon Press, 2006
ISBN 0-687-33363-6
RRP $US 8.00

Written by a pastoral counselor and based on his experiences surrounding the tragic death of his two-year-old son, this book is a Christian message about the hope and fulfilment that can be found in grief.

Roger Woodruff
(November, 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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