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Book and Media Reviews
August 12, 2009

A Life Worth Living: A Doctor’s Reflections on Illness in a High-Tech Era

JAMA. 2009;302(6):693-695. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1168

Two weeks after starting my pediatric residency in the summer of 1996, a 6-week-old boy was admitted to our ward with new-onset seizures. Whether it was because something did not seem quite right with the infant (who did not maintain eye contact and had not yet begun to smile) or simply because the chief resident felt that caring for this child would be a good learning experience, he assigned the child's care to me. And so began an intense relationship with the child and his parents, which began that morning and continued beyond that night to his death 5½ months later. The child, as we later learned, had a rare mitochondrial disorder for which there was no cure, only partial and unsatisfying treatments for its various manifestations. The child's condition slowly but surely declined, his organ systems failing one after the other until his death.

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