Picks and Pans Review: The Measure of Our Days: New Beginnings at Life's End

updated 01/12/1998 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/12/1998 01:00AM

by Jerome Groopman, M.D.

Jerome Groopman does not fear the reaper. In The Measure of Our Days this prominent Harvard researcher offers an unflinching portrait of terminal illness as seen through the eyes of a compassionate physician. The result is a moving story of a doctor and patients grappling with cancer and AIDS, one that may be compared with Sherwin Nuland's 1994 bestseller How We Die.

Tracking eight patients through the course of their illnesses, Groopman provides a detailed medical and psychological picture while never omitting the complexity of his own deeply vested feelings. Some of his patients live, some die; some are passive, some are pushy, but all are desperately frightened. Throughout, Dr. Groopman and his patients share a wrenching humanity.

This is not a light read—it delivers enough graphic detail to unsettle the most hardened medical voyeur. But the book clearly seeks a deeper truth: Is there a lesson to be learned in dying? Groopman, too realistic a scientist to make insupportable claims, lets his cases speak for themselves. (Viking, $23.95)

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