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Medicine with heart

14. October 2022
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Books reviewedAbraham Verghese: Cutting for Stone. Vintage books, New York 2009.

Like no other, Abraham Verghese knows how to describe medicine as an art that demands all our heart and mind. He tells the story of adopted twins who are raised by a pair of Indian doctors in an Ethiopian mission hospital.

The setting is a feast for the senses: the vastness of the ethiopian landscape, the spice-rich cuisine and "Tizita" - music, which captures the Ethiopian soul. Verghese, who is himself of Indian descent and grew up in Adis Ababa, writes autobiographical experiences. Like his main character Marion Stone, he had to interrupt his medical studies in 1974 because of the military coup and emigrate to the USA.

In his novel "Cutting for Stone" he transmits his passion for medicine. Marion, who sees his parents' medical work every day in the mission hospital, adopts their empathetic attitude towards the patients. And also their commitment to more social justice. Verghese points to the fact, that whether in the chronically underfinanced mission hospital or in the Bronx in New York: the poor and socially disadvantaged are still sicker and die earlier.

A doctor's love for medicine

"Cutting for Stone" is not only a declaration of love for medicine, however, but also a wonderful family story. And the suspenseful relationship of the twin couple Shiva and Marion Stone. Vergheese's characters are full of life and warmth. They struggle with relationships, run away, love and hate each other - and yet ultimately find each other. Through all of life's ups and downs, their vocation to medicine sustains them. Or in Verghese's words:
"Medicine is a demanding mistress, yet she is faithful, generous, and true. […] she gives meaning to everything I do."

Related podcasts:

The podcast "My schizophrenic brother" is also about the difficult and yet loving relationship of a pair of twins. Here, the narrator's brother has schizophrenia.

More information:

Currently, Verghese is committed to focusing on healing in an era where technology threatens to overwhelms the human side of medicine. He also comments on this in the podcast "Medicine and the Machine". Read more on the website of Abraham Verghese.

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