Praise for Accidental Kindness:
[Stein’s] incisive articulation of the emotional challenges faced by doctors is rendered in prose that’s vivid, candid, and shot through with compassion—it makes for an investigation that’s tough to forget. This is a standout.”—STARRED review, Publishers Weekly
“One of the most powerful, honest, and insightful books I’ve read by a doctor.”—Belle Boggs, author of The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood
“I read it in one sitting, and felt that I was drinking powerful medicine in the form of prose.”—Sarah Ruhl, Pulitzer Prize finalist, playwright, and author of Smile: The Story of a Face, a memoir
We will all be patients sooner or later. And when we go to the doctor, when we’re hurting, we tend to think in terms of cause and condemnation. We often look for relief not only from physical symptoms but also from our self-blame. We want from our doctors kindness under any of its many names: empathy, caring, compassion, humanity. We look for safety and forgiveness. But we forget that doctors, too, are often in need of forgiveness—from their patients and from themselves. No doctor enters the medical profession expecting to be unkind or to make mistakes, but because of the complexity of our current medical system and because doctors are human, they often find themselves acting much less kindly than they would like to. Drawing on his work as a primary care physician and a behavioral scientist, Michael Stein artfully examines the often conflicting goals of patients and their doctors. In those differences, Stein recognizes that kindness should not be a patient’s forbidden or unrealistic expectation. This book leaves us with new knowledge of and insights into what we might hope for, and what might go wrong, or right, in the most intimate clinical moments.
Michael Stein, M.D., is award-winning author of six novels and four books of nonfiction, most recently Broke: Patients Talk About Money with Their Doctor. He is professor of health policy at the Boston University School of Public Health and executive editor of PublicHealthPost.org.