[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
January 20, 1989

The Sorcerer's Apprentice: Medical Miracles and Other Disasters

Author Affiliations

Wright State University Miami Valley School of Nursing Dayton, Ohio

Wright State University Miami Valley School of Nursing Dayton, Ohio

JAMA. 1989;261(3):455. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420030129052

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


Hats off to Sallie Tisdale on this outstanding book that examines the cold, hard, and sometimes frightening issues of bioethics. Tisdale describes medical ethics as "a concept doomed to futility. It is too small to contain the problem it hopes to solve.... It is the reaction of last resort, the thumb in a dike."

Tisdale is able to beautifully articulate the moral dilemmas faced by health care givers each day, but she particularly focuses on those dilemmas faced by individual nurses. Her descriptions of situations, patients' reactions to their illnesses, and interactions between patients and medical personnel are painfully accurate.

Each chapter centers on one or two patients and involved care givers. In a very moving and emotional way, Tisdale narrates the patients' struggle and agony with their illnesses, the grief, the loss of control, and cumulative medical and health care experiences. She explores the areas of a kidney dialysis