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November 6, 1991

The Patient's Ordeal

Author Affiliations

Georgia State University Atlanta

Georgia State University Atlanta

JAMA. 1991;266(17):2471-2472. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03470170163044

This book functions on two levels. On one it examines the ordeals patients and their families must face when attempting to cope with severe mental and physical trauma. When operating on this level, the author, Professor William May, presents moving accounts of severe burning, retardation, infertility, battery, molestation, alcoholism, organ donation, and the ravages of aging. These accounts are heart-wrenching, to say the least, and the manner in which they are presented testifies to the author's concern, sensitivity, and humanity. If The Patient's Ordeal is taken merely as a description of how patients and their families have responded to crises, it must be counted a success. But, The Patient's Ordeal also repeatedly suggests ways of conceptualizing and responding to these crises, and on this level it is susceptible to a wide variety of criticisms. In what follows I shall examine three of what I think are the most fairly representative