ST on Health: "The Good Doctor: A Father, a Son, and the Evolution of Medical Ethics"

May 27, 2014

On this edition of StudioTulsa on Health, we speak with Dr. Barron H. Lerner, a Professor of Medicine and Population Health at the New York University School of Medicine. Dr. Lerner is also an award-winning and quite prolific writer on the related subjects of medicine, medical history, medical ethics, and medicine and society. He joins guest host John Schumann by phone in order to talk about his latest book, a memoir entitled "The Good Doctor: A Father, a Son, and the Evolution of Medical Ethics." As was noted of this well-regarded title in a recent review in Booklist: "The private and professional lives of two doctors --- father and son --- are bared in this memoir of a medical family. The younger Dr. Lerner, an internist-historian-ethicist, reminisces and reflects on his father's extreme devotion to the care of patients. The elder Lerner, an infectious-disease specialist, is portrayed as an old-school, benevolent MD with a take-charge approach. Dad is a practitioner of medical paternalism. Son stands up for patient autonomy. But while reading his father’s personal journals years later, the younger Lerner becomes aware of the congruity between parenting and doctoring: 'knowing when to insist on something and knowing when to let go.' He wonders if contemporary medicine has become 'too democratized.' Ethical issues --- medical futility, informed consent, rationing of medical resources, truth telling, medical errors, and overreliance on testing and technology --- are depicted as complex and often controversial. Despite their differing perspectives and generational gap, these two doctors are in complete agreement about the paramount importance of the physician-patient relationship and the necessity of humanism in the medical profession."