VITAL SIGNS: A Doctor Examines His Profession by Jean Bernard

VITAL SIGNS: A Doctor Examines His Profession

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Not to be confused with the Langone book of the same title on dying (1974), this is a book about the new medicine which has raised so many hypotheses and dilemmas ""from morals to embryology, from biophysics to sociology."" M. Bernard is a French hematologist of considerable prominence and his book has been widely acclaimed in France where no doubt less has appeared about the extension of life and its unhealthier side-effects. However much you have read or think you know, you will find him interesting, humane and raisonnable in the fullest extension of the word only achieved in his language. In the beginning he discusses his specialty whether it be geographic hematology (sickle cell anemia, etc.) or red-cell enzyme deficiency or the RH factor. He proceeds to cancers and leukemias (the pilot diseases for the study of cancer)--finds cancer mostly not hereditary and viruses a ""likely"" cause. On to artificial organs (the kidney transplant is the only current success, but he's sanguine about the prospects), treatments (he cautions against the proliferation of new drugs and drug-taking), aging and delaying death (""pointless"" in many cases), the costs and economics of health with the everpresent question of triage (doctors face such decisions daily), and much less clinical matters such as the temptations which distort and mislead. So do representatives of other disciplines--Michel Foucault for one. You'll pick up the fascinating incidental: asparagine, now broadly used in leukemia, was mentioned years ago by one of Balzac's apothecaries. Bernard's a highly civilized, informed, enlightened man--he's also the first to admit that doctors should stick to doctoring. But you'll be glad he's taken the time to write this book.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1975
Publisher: Macmillan