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“People come to us for help. They come for health and strength.” With these simple words David Mendel begins Proper Doctoring, a book about what it means (and takes) to be a good doctor, and for that reason very much a book for patients as well as doctors—which is to say a book for everyone. In crisp, clear prose, he introduces readers to the craft of medicine and shows how to practice it. Discussing matters ranging from the most basic—how doctors should dress and how they should speak to patients—to the taking of medical histories, the etiquette of examinations, and the difficulties of diagnosis, Mendel moves on to consider how the doctor can best serve patients who suffer from prolonged illness or face death. Throughout he keeps in sight the fundamental moral fact that the relationship between doctor and patient is a human one before it is a professional one. As he writes with characteristic concision, “The trained and experienced doctor puts himself, or his nearest and dearest, in the patient’s position, and asks himself what he would do if he were advising himself or his family. No other advice is acceptable; no other is justifiable.”
Proper Doctoring is a book that is admirably direct, as well as wise, witty, deeply humane, and, frankly, indispensable.