IAHPC book reviews

2014; Volume 15, No 5, May

IAHPC book reviews

By Dr. Roger Woodruff

Palliative Care book of the month

From Advanced Disease to Bereavement
Miriam Johnson, Karen Hogg and James Beattie
Oxford University Press, 2012
216 pp
ISBN 978-0-19-929930-0
RRP £ 29.99, $US 74.95

This pocket-sized OUP Specialist Handbook provides a wealth of information about the supportive and palliative care of patients with heart failure.

The opening chapters summarise the pathophysiology and clinical features of heart failure, as well as the difficulties with prognostication caused by the variable clinical course. The chapter outlining palliative care lists the potential benefits of integrating the principles and practices of palliative care into the management of heart failure -for patients, their families, and for the health care professionals; and the disadvantages of not doing so. There are chapters on communication, advance care planning, the management of pain and other symptoms as well as psychosocial and spiritual matters, and how to care for the dying patient.

I was impressed by the amount of information, clearly set out in bullet-point lists, and by the Table of Contents and the system of headings which make that information accessible. This book should be of value to those working in both cardiology and palliative care. The former will gain insight into the human side of their patients and what the real (palliative) needs are for patients with advanced disease; for the latter, it provides a good summary of both the medical and palliative needs of patients with advanced heart failure.

Other reviews

The Interplay of Intimacy, Sexuality and Grief
Brad DeFord & Richard Gilbert (eds.)
Baywood Publishing, 2013
240 pp
ISBN 978-0-89503-653-7
RRP $US 50.95, £ 41.50

This book is about ‘One of the unspoken aspects of mourning [that] concerns the ways that loss affects our intimate relationships and our sexual expressiveness.’ It discusses the meaning of intimacy and the significance of sexuality. There are essays about death and intimacy issues in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, the loss of relationships and the restoration of intimacy in families, adjusting to life’s losses due to ageing or infirmity and self-determination and dignity at the end of life, and more. The final two chapters are a Christian and a Jewish review of the bases that shape our perspectives on intimacy, sexuality and healing after loss.

As one with no formal education in grief and bereavement, this book left some unanswered questions. On the one hand, there are a significant number of patients who will benefit from these issues being brought into the open, and for which the essays in this book provide useful direction. But the (seeming) emphasis on getting everybody to talk about these matters did not appeal; you can give permission for such conversations, but if nothing is forthcoming, there is a case for letting it lie.

I also found myself wanting to know more about the management of some of the problems unearthed. In the essay about sexuality and hospice, an example is given of a 17 year-old boy with a terminal illness who tells the chaplain he wants to have sex once before he dies and asks him how he should go about it. I know exactly how that question feels - she was a very attractive 15 year-old girl with terminal lymphoma. But they didn’t tell me what the chaplain did!

This book will be of interest to those studying or working with grief and bereavement. It is not a textbook, but an invitation to think and reflect.

There was one quotation that I particularly liked and is reproduced here. It is attributed to a hospice chaplain, Elizabeth Kaeton.

Just below the surface of polite repartee lies…a crucial conversation about an important issue in their life…It is a frustrating, maddening dance unless one is skilled at listening below the surface to the questions and their attendant issues.

Writings About the End of Life
Roger Kirkpatrick (ed.)
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2012
128 pp
ISBN 978-1-84905-490-4
RRP £ 8.99, $US 14.95

Review copy supplied by Footprint Books <www.footprint.com.au>

This is a collection of 30 stories and poems from a competition run by the Dying Matters Coalition, an organisation set up in 2009 by The National Council for Palliative Care to help transform public attitudes towards death, dying and bereavement.

I liked the stories in this book; given the subject, ‘enjoy’ is perhaps not the right word. The first thing that struck me was the quality of the writing and, on reviewing the biographical sketches at the end of the book, I note that a number of the authors were not novices with the pen. The differing styles and approaches to the subject are welcome. I can happily recommend this book to anyone who works in palliative care, who I think will be interested to read how others see what we see every day.

Roger Woodruff, MD (Australia)
April 2013

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