Most pages of my copy of Nuland's How We Die sport underlinings and check marks. On page 72, though, I drew a big question mark in the margin beside a paragraph that preceded another that earned a "great insight!"
"When it is possible to identify a disease by giving it a name, its ravages become the subject of treatment, with the potential aim of cure. And that, after all, is the real reason a modern scientific doctor becomes a specialist. No matter his stated interest in relieving human suffering and no matter the sincerity of his efforts, the average specialist physician does what he does because he is absorbed by the riddle of disease and longs to conquer it [my emphasis] by solving each puzzlement it presents to his inquisitive mind, whether he is a researcher or a clinician...The diagnosis of disease and the quest for overcoming it with his intellect are the challenges that motivate every specialist who is any good at what he does."
Yes, doctors can get caught up in the thrill of problem-solving and turned off by seemingly insoluble problems. My question mark in the margin reflects my discomfort with Nuland lumping all specialists together and claiming the primary motivation for all specialists is their passion for finding a cure. I have trouble believing that only a tiny fraction of specialists will stick with the care of the aged, if they feel that "aging" is an insoluble problem.
Next: The "great insight" drawn from this troubling paragraph.