Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bedside Manners: One Doctor's Reflections on the Oddly Intimate Encounters Between Patient and Healer

by David Watts

The author, an internist and poet, writes brief vignettes about a variety of patients – the resigned, the anxious, the pathologically neurotic, the demanding and blustering.  With the longest at around ten pages and most of them no more than four, these are brief scenes, ruminations on what a patient’s words or actions may actually be saying about their inner feelings.

The last word in the subtitle – “healer” – is aptly chosen, as Dr. Watts attends to not only his patients’ colons and esophagi, but their fears and hopes and memories.  Using as his precept “So you’re a doctor, but don’t go around acting like one,” he does a masterful job of checking his ego, putting himself in his patients’ shoes, allowing them their moments of fear or bravado.  As the kind of doctor who sees himself as a healer, listener, counselor, and fount of compassion, he also has a few rather pointed and amusing things to say about insurance companies and red tape.  As a poet, he is a talented storyteller with a gift for evoking a scene of high emotion in a  few lines and ending it on the perfect, ambiguous, moving, or wryly humorous note.  I did not like the way in which he eschewed all quotation marks; Watts may be a poet, but this is not poetry, and it was a distracting affectation. 

four stars

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