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Books, Journals, New Media
March 17, 1999

HopeThe Power of Hope: A Doctor's Perspective

Author Affiliations
 

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media

 

Not Available

 

by Howard Spiro, 288 pp, $35, ISBN 0-300-07410-7, paper, $18, ISBN 0-300-07632-0, New Haven, Conn, Yale University Press, 1998.

JAMA. 1999;281(11):1043. doi:10.1001/jama.281.11.1043

Some physicians will find this book dull and repetitive, others energizing and illuminating, but regardless of varied perceptions, all physicians should read The Power of Hope. In fewer than 300 pages, Dr Spiro uses questions about placebos as a vehicle to develop some significant contentions and philosophies on the practice of medicine.

Early on he lays the groundwork and defines his terms, taking great pains to differentiate between disease and illness and their companions, care and cure. He defines with precision what is frequently considered "soft science," and the reader can be assured the terms will be used consistently throughout the text. The author then describes in great detail and with considerable passion what the emergence of science, to his mind, has done to the art of medicine. He unabashedly deplores the imbalance that has resulted from the reordering of priorities in clinical practice and makes a strong case that the medical education establishment, with its emphasis on reductionism at the expense of beneficence, is the most culpable agent in this transformation. The reader is struck by his unrelenting castigation of both the medical educator and practitioner who have deigned to abandon the traditional role of the physician for that of the one-dimensional scientist.

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