IAHPC Book Reviews

2013; Volume 14, No 2, February

IAHPC book reviews

by Dr. Roger Woodruff

Palliative Care Book of the Month

THE EDGE OF MEDICINE
Stories of Dying Children and Their Parents
David J. Bearison with Linda Granowetter
Oxford University Press, 2012
213 pp
ISBN 978-0-19-538927-2
RRP $US47.99; £32.50

Dealing with dying children and their families is difficult. This is a new book by the pediatric psychologist, David Bearison, who wrote When Treatment Fails. How medicine cares for the dying (OUP 2006). His previous book was more about professional attitudes, whilst this one is more oriented to the patients themselves. The book is based on a study of twenty or so dying children, with extensive quotes from the patients themselves, as well as their families and their doctors.
I liked this book, although that doesn’t mean I enjoyed the subject. It has an openness to it—I felt at home at the bedside, albeit emotionally uncomfortable. There is nothing categorical or dogmatic here, just some cautious suggestions about moving forward to find ways to respect and honour what the patients (and their families) find is best for them. The concluding chapter by a pediatric oncologist (also the author’s wife) is also refreshing and brings up such questions as to whether all denial is negative.
If you work in pediatric palliative care, this is required reading. If you work in adult palliative care, you should also read it because I think there are lessons to be learned from the attitudes in this book. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ stages of dying may have got death out of the closet, and we’ve progressed since then, but a lot of thinking remains to be done.

Other Reviews

THE PHENOMENON OF PAIN
Serge Marchand
IASP (International Association for the Study of Pain) Press, 2012
356 pp
ISBN 978-0-931092-91-6
RRP $US75.00

This is the translation of an updated French-Canadian text but it doesn’t tell me to which particular group it is directed; it simply refers to ‘clinicians’. The book covers all aspects of pain, from theory to the interdisciplinary pain clinic, although the depth to which the topics are explored varies a bit. The chapter on neurophysiology, and the one that follows on the neurophysiology of pain, seem thorough. But I thought that fifteen or so pages for the complete description of all analgesics and co-analgesics was inadequate. The lumping of the pharmacological and surgical therapies for pain in a single chapter seemed odd. There were also chapters on differences in pain in different age groups and in men and women. I thought the conversational style and the frequent use of ‘we’ and ‘us’ (particularly in a single-authored text) was a distraction. The strengths of this book relate to our attitudes to pain and how we think about it—its diagnosis and assessment and treatment—but I am still not sure just where it fits in the pain education field.

WHAT DOES DEAD MEAN?
A Book for Young Children to Help Explain Death and Dying
Caroline Jay and Jenni Thomas
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2013
28pp
ISBN 978-1-84905-355-6
RRP $US15.95; £9.99

Review copy supplied by Footprint Books <www.footprint.com.au>
This book is designed to assist adults helping children (4+ years) deal with death and dying. Illustrated, it sets out some facts in a straightforward way, but also asks questions to help children to express themselves (by word or drawing), or to ask further questions. I thought this would be a useful book to have tucked away on the shelf in the hospice, to be loaned out from time to time.

THE SAVAGES (DVD)
Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Director: Tamara Jenkins
20th Century Fox, 2007
RRP $US14.98; £9.50

Wendy and John Savage (Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman) are two middle-aged siblings who have to join forces when their long-estranged abusive father develops dementia. With a lot of truths told along the way, they have to come to terms with the new and painful responsibilities of providing care for their father. Nominated for two Oscars (Best Actress, Best Screenplay), the story is told with compassion, love and a good dose of humour. If you work in palliative care, you will enjoy this movie and have the added satisfaction of knowing that someone out there is telling it like it really is.

Something Different

PROOF OF HEAVEN
A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife
Eben Alexander
Pan Macmillan, 2012
196 pp
ISBN 978-1-7426-1281-2
RRP $US15.99; £9.99

Near-death experiences (NDEs) are brain-based illusions. Or are they? Neurosurgeon, Eben Alexander, suffered near-fatal E. coli meningitis, but woke up after seven days in a coma with his faculties intact and some remarkable memories. This is one (medically educated) man’s report of his journey into spiritual reality. ‘…the death of the body and brain is not the end of consciousness…’ I have to admit this book made me sit up and think.


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

View over 100+ IAHPC hospice & palliative care book reviews


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
AUSTRALIA

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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