The Uncertain Art: Book summary and reviews of The Uncertain Art by Sherwin B. Nuland

The Uncertain Art

Thoughts on a Life in Medicine

by Sherwin B. Nuland

The Uncertain Art by Sherwin B. Nuland X
The Uncertain Art by Sherwin B. Nuland
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Book Summary

Drawing from history, the recent past, and his own life, Nuland weaves a tapestry of compelling stories in which doctors have had to make decisions in the face of uncertainty. Topics include the primitive (and sometimes illegal) procedures doctors once practiced with good intentions, such as grave robbing and prescribing cocaine as an anesthetic (which resulted in a physician becoming America’s first cocaine addict); the curious “cures” for irregularity touted by people from the ancient Egyptians to the cereal titan John Harvey Kellogg and bodybuilder Charles Atlas; and healers grappling with today’s complex moral and ethical quandaries, from cloning to gene therapy to the adoption of Eastern practices like acupuncture.

Nuland also recounts his most dramatic experiences in a forty-year medical career: the time he was called out of the audience of a Broadway play to help a man having a heart attack (when no other doctor there would respond), and how he formed a profound friendship with an unforgettable–and doomed–heart patient. Behind these inspiring accounts always lie the mysteries of the human body and human nature, the manner in which the ill can will themselves back to health and the odd and essential interactions between a body’s own healing mechanisms and a doctor’s prescriptions.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Although solid and perceptive, these essays are also occasionally flowery and verbose, and do not offer the rich insights of the author's bestselling How We Die." - Publishers Weekly.

"A slightly scattershot collection, but, as usual for Nuland, more hits than misses." - Kirkus Reviews.

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A clinical professor of surgery at Yale University, Sherwin B. Nuland is the author of a number of books including How We Die and The Art of Aging.

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