IAHPC book reviews

2012; Volume 13, No 12, December

IAHPC book reviews

by Dr. Roger Woodruff

Palliative Care Book of the Month

Andrew Dickman
Oxford University Press, 2012
574 pp
ISBN 978-0-19-966039-1
RRP £27.99 $US49.99
This second edition of Andrew Dickman’s Drugs in Palliative Care has been updated and expanded and now includes more than 160 drug monographs. I like the handy pocket-size and the drug monographs are organised in an easy-to-use A-Z format. The monographs include information about indications, contraindications and precautions, adverse effects and drug interactions, as well as dose and dose adjustment. Although the products listed are those available in the UK, the pharmacological information would be useful and relevant anywhere. I think this book would be very useful as a quick reference on any palliative care unit.

Other Reviews

Clear practical advice, based on a series of real case studies
Janet Dunphy
Radcliffe Publishing, 2011
150 pp
ISBN 978-1-84619-569-3
RRP £24.99 $US45.00
There are a few books now available, offering to teach you the fundamentals of communication in palliative care, but this one stands out. Straight forward, there are no pages of theory here. Eminently practical, born of years of use, yet kind and caring. Personal experience and clinical anecdotes from many years of palliative care illuminate her teaching. If you are new to the field, or you are looking for a primer in palliative care communication, you could do much worse than to learn from Janet Dunphy.

Palliative and End of Live Care for Older People
Merryn Gott and Christine Ingleton (Eds)
Oxford University Press, 2011
284 pp
ISBN 978-0-19-956993-9
RRP $US59.95 £34.99
This book addresses the problems related to end-of-life care for older people from a variety of perspectives including palliative care, gerontology and public health. Where I work, there is a major problem now, but in 2050 it is estimated that there will be two billion people aged 60 and over.
The book is divided into five sections. The first is about ‘What is different about dying old?’ and includes a very interesting chapter on the interaction between health technology and end of life care for older people and asks whether medical care will continue to do everything that can be done, rather than what should be done. The second section looks at palliative and end-of-life care for older people from a public health perspective, including advance care planning. The following sections are about family and professional carers, the significance of place at the end of life, and considerations for research, education and service development.
The problems are daunting and will increase rapidly in the coming decades. This book will be of interest to anybody involved with palliative care, gerontology or public health. It is entirely appropriate that palliative care should play a major role in improving end-of-life care for older people, but the task is enormous.

Harold Coward and Kelli Stajduhar (Eds)
SUNY Press, 2012
340 pp
ISBN 978-1-4384-4274-7
RRP $US27.95 £20.00
This book sets out to answer the question, ‘What are the understandings of a good death in the major religious traditions for use in hospice palliative care?’ Spiritual suffering is a frequent accompaniment of terminal illness, be the patient religious or not. This book focuses on the former. As the palliative care movement has grown, it has come in contact with all of the world’s major religions, which makes this a welcome book.
The first half of the book is a discussion of a ‘good death’ from the perspectives of the world’s major religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Chinese Religions. The second half is a series of half a dozen case studies of ‘real life’ hospice care. The book provides a wealth of information about religious beliefs and customs, particularly with regard to terminal illness and death.  
The chapter on Islam provides information and guidance that would help one provide more culturally-sensitive care (in this case, with regard to the patient’s religion), but I was looking for more. I am told that a terminal illness might be viewed as a spiritual test, and that one should not complain about pain or physical suffering. But how should I deal with that? What does it mean for the doctor-patient relationship, at the bedside? My personal background gives me reasonable insight as to what might be going on in the minds of terminally ill people who call themselves Christian. Some benefit by talking about such matters; other don’t wish to. But I don’t have the same information for terminally ill Muslims. There are things I can facilitate (e.g. ritual washing), there are things I should not do (e.g. interrupt prayers), but there was no feeling of ‘being there’ with the whole person. It occurred to me that perhaps anything to do with their religious spirituality was none of my business.
Addressing spiritual suffering is a very important part of palliative care, which makes this book, produced by the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society and the Centre on Ageing at Victoria University in Canada, important. But for those of us that grew up with Cicely Saunders’ original models, we need even more specific guidance in how to (or how not to) deal with matters of spiritual suffering in patients who belong to religions that are foreign to us.

Something Different

The Death of Honesty
Theodore Dalrymple
Monday Books, 2011
242 pp
ISBN 978-1-906-30809-4
RRP £14.99 $US15.80
This is a collection of 39 short essays by consultant psychiatrist, prison doctor and journalist, Theodore Dalrymple. He covers an amazing range of topics from good and evil, neurosciences, genocide and serial murder, Marxism and Islam, aborigines and immigrants, to mention but a few. What he writes is crisp and well reasoned with little time for fads, political spin or political correctness. No, I did not agree with everything he said, but he made me think. If you are interested in how our minds function (or dysfunction, as the case may be) and how we respond to the continuing changes occurring in our world, you will find these essays both entertaining and stimulating. And for those of us professionally involved with death and dying, there is a discussion of why the victims in Auschwitz and the Rwandan genocide all went silently, and what the palliative care nurse should do when the wife of an 80 year old man dies at home in the Welsh hills, snowed in by winter.
Give yourself a treat, it’s Christmas! 

Roger Woodruff, MD (Australia)
November 2012
Dr. Woodruff is a Lifetime Member of the IAHPC Board and Past Chair. His bio may be found here.

Note for authors and publishers: 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.

Previous Page News Index Next Page