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LEAN ON ME. Cancer through a carerıs eyes.
Lorraine Kember. L. Kember Publications, 2003.

130 pp. ISBN 0-646-499-69-6. Price (includes postage and handling) $AU28.50, $US29, £14, Euro 23
Available from L. Kember Publications, PO Box 70, Beechboro, Western Australia, 6063, Australia.  Email [email protected]

This is one woman's very moving story of caring for her husband for two years while he battled mesothelioma.  

The emotional insights she shares with her diary would be a great comfort to anyone caring for someone with advanced cancer or any other terminal illness.

Her focus on his quality of life as she educates herself about the medical aspects of his care is quite remarkable, and would be inspirational to others in a similar situation and would empower them with realistic hope.

This little book should have a place on the shelf of any hospice or palliative care service, to be loaned out to the ones who care for our patients and whose struggles and problems are often hidden by those of the patient.

Strongly recommended.

WATCH WITH ME. Inspiration for a life in hospice care
Dame Cicely Saunders. Mortal Press, 2003.

50pp. ISBN 095441922-7. RRP £6.50. Available at

This is a selection of five essays and reflections by Cicely Saunders, one taken from each decade of her involvement with palliative care.  They demonstrate her continuing concern about how we might best meet the needs of those facing imminent death, particularly the spiritual dimension and the search for meaning.  At the same time, they provide insight into her own religious and philosophical attitudes that have sustained her remarkable professional career.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this little book.  Not just for the historical colour or the striking clarity of her communication.  It was because I was continually challenged to reflect on my own concepts and practices, whether she was speaking to me from 1965 or 2003. 

Anyone who works in palliative care will be stronger for reading this little book.

Highly recommended.

Practical Wisdom for the End-of-Life

David Kuhl. Public Affairs, 2002.

317pp. ISBN 1-58648-197-5. RRP $US14, £7.

In this excellent book, Kuhl uses patients' stories to take us through the background, the meaning, the practicalities, and the benefits of providing appropriate and meaningful end-of-life care.  The first four chapters are about dealing with a terminal illness on a practical level.  The second five deal with the psychological and spiritual experience of that journey.

In the introduction it states that this is a book for patients with a terminal illness although I fear it would be too weighty for many of the patients I see.  However, I think it is a first-class primer for anybody who works in hospice and palliative care who wants to better understand the non-physical aspects of the care we deliver.

A handbook for Health Care Providers.
(Progress in Pain Research and Management, vol 27)
Robert H. Dworkin and William S. Breitbart (Eds). International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), 2004.

664 pp. ISBN 0-931092-48-5. RRP $US 89.

This is a comprehensive resource for health care professionals, detailing the psychological, psychiatric and social aspects of pain.  In contrast to other volumes on this topic that are written for specialists in mental health, this book is directed at all the clinicians involved in the management of pain.

The opening chapters discuss the biopsychosocial models of pain.  The second section deals with evaluating both acute and chronic pain.  In the chapters on evaluating and treating pain, the emphasis on the patients' perspective is welcome.  Part four is about complex disorders including complex regional pain syndrome and there is a chapter on the psychological and psychiatric dimensions of palliative care.  The management of pain in children, the elderly, and patients with drug abuse problems are dealt with in the next section.  The last section of the book deals with the influence of coping styles, personality traits and sex differences in the causation and management of pain.

The editors and IASP are to be congratulated for the production of this book.  It is a well-referenced, indexed, and comprehensive review of the non-physical aspects of pain management.  These include complex and difficult issues that confront health care professionals on a daily basis, and this volume certainly has a place on the library shelf of any pain or palliative care service.

Allan Kellehear and David Ritchie (Eds).

Innovative Resources The Publishing Arm of St. Lukeıs Anglicare, 2003. 128 pp. ISBN 0-9580188-0-4. RRP $AU29.15. Available from

This book brings a glimpse of seven individual lives - seven Australians facing the prospect of their own death.  They were given a series of questions to ponder: How do you understand this time in your life? What surprised you about this situation and what didn't?  What lessons do you feel you have learnt from this time?  Knowing what you know now, what would tell others about the confrontation with mortality?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the narratives.  They made me wonder just how much more the dying patients that I work with might have to tell me if only I could spend more time with them.  And they reminded me that there is always room for improvement in the way we accommodate the needs of those facing death.

Anyone who works in hospice and palliative care will be richer for reading this little book.

Dying, death and bereavement in the community

Rodger Charlton (Ed). Radcliffe Medical Press, 2002.
234 pp. ISBN 1-85775-573-1. RRP £27.95 $US 59.35

The increasing involvement of general practitioners and the primary health care team in the delivery of palliative care to patients and their families in the community is a welcome, albeit slow, development.  The goal of this book is to provide "a description of the pertinent issues that constitute primary palliative care."

There are useful chapters on clinical governance, the role of the primary health care team in palliative care, care for caregivers, and ethics. But I was concerned that the chapters on pain and symptom control were possibly too brief to be practically useful.  The discussion on complementary therapies lacked any scientific vigor.  And placing Kubler-Ross' stages of acceptance (as seen in the patient, pre-mortem), in the same box with Parkes' stages of bereavement (as seen in the relatives, post-mortem) was, I thought, a bit confusing.

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