Feb 11, 2011

Woman's Doctor

A Year in the Life of an Obstetrician-Gynecologist
by Dr. William J. Sweeney and Barbara Lang Stern

A collection of stories from the practice of an OBGYN who at first focused mostly on obstetrics but by the end of the book had decided to make cancer surgery his speciality. His stories encompass many aspects of women's health: menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, ovarian cancer, menopause, infertility, etc. The stories are all candid and show a great compassion and sensitivity this doctor had towards his patients. They're also easy to read; he's a pretty good storyteller (or his co-author is). The hardest chapter for me to read was the one about abortions, which had just recently been legalized when this book was published. It's pretty dated. So I know medicine isn't practiced this way anymore, but it was still intriguing to read about. Reminded me quite a bit of Intern. Some things really jumped out at me, like when the author referred to Alzheimer's as a rare condition- was it really uncommon some forty years ago, or just not diagnosed as frequently? I was also surprised to read things like the doctor thinking that smoking eight cigarettes a day wouldn't hurt a pregnant woman's baby, that he used hypnosis to help women in labor manage pain, or that to procure sperm for an infertile couple to use for artificial insemination they would simply ask young doctors and medical students at the hospital to provide a sperm sample on the spot, paying them $15 or $20! (Which apparently was a lot of money back then. Sperm banks that screened donors were a very new thing at the time). Things sure were different. But people were still people, and women faced many of the same problems they do today; I guess that's what makes these stories still interesting to read even though treatments are so different now.

I picked up my copy of Woman's Doctor at a thrift store, out of pure curiosity. It wasn't a disappointing read!

Rating: 3/5 ........ 318 pages, 1973

anyone else read it?

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