Saturday, June 14, 2008

The House of God

by Samuel Shem

The book takes place in the 70s: The narration includes Freudian psycho dynamics as something radical and intellectually negotiable; from a medical point of view it is obvious that some time has passed since it was written as there actually is a lot more that can be done these days, which of course leads to new issues I should be debating elsewhere; and as Shem writes about an ongoing public complaint against President Nixon the approximate dates are there to estimate. However, nothing of this shadows the current interest in what the author really wants to debate, on how the pressure put on medical students especially during their residency can force them into learning to cope with it in odd ways. Shem writes about harsh sarcasm and suicide, and on the importance of not being lonely but rather communicate the startling emotions that necessarily show up when suddenly having full responsibility in life and death situations. What he tells us is vital, that in order to be a good doctor specialist knowledge is not sufficient. He does not come with a solution though, and that may be because there is not one. It is a constant act of balance. To be able to gain all the experience and knowledge is tough, there is no way out of that, and at the same time it is important to stay human. To be able to listen emphatically and then give advice that can hurt. It was not only good for Samuel Shem's Relationship On Rocks that he opted for psychiatry I imagine, although the GOMERS would probably have needed the guy on the ward.