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Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality

January 13, 2008

Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality By Pauline W. Chen

Chen charts her personal and professional rites of passage in dealing with mortality, from her first dissection of a human cadaver, through the first time she pronounces a patient dead, to having to officially take responsibility for the accidental death of a patient in her care. Focusing on the enormous moral and psychological pressures on doctors and on the need for greater empathy in hospital end-of-life care, Chen also reports on signs of change within the profession, stemming from both criticisms of training and institutions and from physicians' initiatives to bring a greater sense of shared humanity to their work.

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