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OXFORD TEXTBOOK OF PALLIATIVE MEDICINE,
3rd edition

                              
Derek Doyle, Geoffrey Hanks, Nathan Cherny, and Kenneth Calman (Editors)
Oxford University Press, 2003
ISBN 019 851098 5
1224 pp
RRP 150, $US198.50, $AU485.00

It's here. What we've all been waiting for. The third edition of the OTPM. And it does not disappoint.

This edition looks to be largely re-written, not just up-dated, and there are many new contributors. There is a new section on the palliation of non-malignant disease, which I think will be particularly useful for the majority of us who deal primarily with advanced cancer. New chapters deal with the role of each of the allied health professionals who make up the multidisciplinary team. There are also new chapters on the principles of evidence-based medicine and on learning communication skills, both of which I think are particularly welcome.

It is not possible to review each section of what is a very large textbook. Overall, it provides good coverage of the whole field of palliative medicine. Duplication, as may occur in any multi-authored text, has been kept to a minimum. Although it has about the same number of pages, the use of a smaller (but very legible) font gives the impression that this edition is considerably larger and has a lot more information than the previous one. I have to declare that I wrote the chapter on HIV/AIDS in Adults, about which nothing more will be said, but had nothing else to do with the production of this book.

Is it up to date? I browsed a few areas where practice has changed in the last few years and found good coverage for selective COX-2 inhibitors, NMDA receptor antagonists and interventional radiology, although the usefulness of low molecular weight heparins in palliative care has not been emphasized.

Is it worth it? The book is not cheap by anybody's standards. But the answer has to be yes because this book will remain the gold standard reference in palliative medicine for the next few years at least. The editors are to be congratulated on the successful completion of what is a very impressive reference. And all who work in palliative medicine owe a debt of gratitude to Derek Doyle, who has now pioneered this book through three editions.

Catherine Barnes and her team at Oxford also deserve commendation. The design and set-out are much improved and the book is both easy and a pleasure to browse. The heading system works and the tables are user-friendly and informative.

Roger Woodruff

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