Wednesday, March 30, 2005

It's not always easy for the doctors either

I just finished a very enjoyable book, Delivering Doctor Amelia, by Dan Shapiro.

Shapiro is a psychologist whose private practice has evolved into counseling physicians. He is also a cancer survivor with deep emotional responses to doctors' care and fallibility. Finally, he is also facing infertility issues at home because his cancer treatments left him sterile.

These three strands intersect when one of the star obstetricians comes to him for therapy. She is afraid that a mistake she made at work has ruined a family. The book weaves together her story, as revealed session by session, and his visceral reactions to her as a patient and as a member of the medical establishment that at times betrayed him. I won't say more than that in case anyone decides to read it.

As someone who has spent more than a few hours in therapy herself, I was fascinated by Shapiro's insights into the steps, questions, silences he uses in counseling and his motivations for them. His self-awareness and honesty made the narrative all the more complicated and engaging. He can't stop thinking about the baby he and his wife are trying to conceive, even as his client is talking about the baby she may have harmed.

Most fascinating, however, is insight into the pressures, doubts, decisions and guilt the doctor struggles with, not only in relation to the case that brings her to Dan Shapiro, but in her daily work as a health care provider.

This book was a much-needed counterpoint to the the anger I've been feeling toward the doctors who performed the Cesarean on my client last month. It shows the tensions OBs are balancing at each birth and the culture of detachment and bravado in which they are educated. It does not necessarily generate sympathy for obstetricians, but it at least provides depth to one example from the profession.


Blogger Dynamic Doula said...

One thing that I really encourage my clients to consider is their care providers *humanity*- that we all go in with our own sets of hopes, ideas, fears, etc- and that as much responsibility as we might place on our care providers, they are not exempt from making mistakes, or having misguided intentions, etc. They are not exempt from their humanity just because they have an MD or LM after their names. We definitely want to have care providers we trust, but trust just means we agree that their intention is to help- it does not mean we assume they know everything. I trust my husband but that doesn't mean we don't disagree from time to time. Yet we exempt our care providers from this fallibility! And we forget to give them their human right to make a mistake, have clouded judgment, etc.

I hope you can find your way thru... it's not always easy for the docs, often it's not- often their intentions ARE to help, in the best way that their filters, fears, experiences allow them to do so. Assume the best intentions!

I definitely want to pick this book up. :) Thanks for sharing!

4:44 PM  

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