- About the book
DetailsThis is an exciting, but difficult, season for the practice of medicine. The effects of corporate transformation on the practice are part of a larger cultural crisis. The arena of medicine is a proving ground for our responses to this crisis, because it is so intimately and immediately related to our bodies. Our answers to contemporary challenges in the practice of medicine will depend on, and probably shape, our answers to philosophical questions at the core of our existence: How do we inhabit our unpredictable and limited lives in a way that allows us to flourish, and how can the deep practice of medicine help? Time is the condition for all human experience, but for mortals like us, time is limited. This limit gives our lives the arc of a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. Unfortunately, many of us in the modern world avoid thinking about limits in our lives—especially the limit on our time called death. The practice of medicine serves people who are facing limits in their lives brought on by the threats of disease and death. Because good doctoring is so intimately related to the complex impact these threats have on our limited lives, this book argues that the significance and meaning of the practice of medicine is inextricably bound to existence in time.
- The author
About the authorRaymond Barfield is Professor of Pediatrics and Christian Philosophy at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He received his MD and his PhD (in philosophy) from Emory University. He is a pediatric oncologist and palliative care physician with an interest in expanding the role of the humanities and the arts in the formation of physicians. He teaches philosophy in the Divinity School at Duke. He has published widely in medicine, philosophy, and literature, including several books: Life in the Blind Spot (poetry), The Book of Colors (a novel), The Ancient Quarrel Between Poetry and Philosophy, Wager: Beauty, Suffering, and Being in the World, and The Poetic Apriori: Philosophical Imagination in a Meaningful Universe. He was the founding director of three programs at Duke: Pediatric Quality of Life and Palliative Care, Theology, Medicine, and Culture and Reimagine Medicine. Currently he is the director of the Medical Humanities Program for the Trent Center for Bioethics, Medical Humanities, and History of Medicine in the Medical School. Ray is married to Karen Barfield, an Episcopal priest. They have two children, Micah and Alexandra, and one grandson named Crew.
Reviews“Dr. Barfield has incredibly insightful words for these changing times in medicine. His exquisite craftsmanship in this text is impressive, but especially his keen ability to expertly circumnavigate this complex topic that is so important to us all—health and human life in the modern era.”—Dr. David Markham, Emory University
"Is Raymond Barfield a physician who happens to be a philosopher or a philosopher who happens to be a physician? One thing is for sure: he’s able to use words in ways that remind us of their overwhelming meaning—words like “disease,” “love,” “death,” and “How can I help today?” As our vast healthcare systems suffer from the illnesses of managed care and the bottom line, this book is an urgent and humane exploration of what the practice of medicine is all about."—Prof. Scott Samuelson, author of Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering and The Deepest Human Life
"Ray Barfield's book moves from story to medicine to deep philosophical reflection, and back. It draws on philosophical insights, not through the engagement of professional philosophy or philosophers, but through the engagement with flesh and blood, and sinew and bone. It helps us to find the right question to ask in our living and our dying—which is to say in the very activity of our very being. Barfield reminds us that it is hard enough, even in the best of circumstances, to arrive at the right answers because we are not practiced at the right question. Layer on the extreme hypercapitalist, hypertechnological apparatus and we must become even better questioners. Barfield sets us on the right path by asking the right question."—Jeffrey P. Bishop, MD, PhD, Saint Louis University
- Additional Information