Speaking Human

A Journey in Palliative Medicine

Non-Fiction - Health - Medical
192 Pages
Reviewed on 06/06/2022
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Foluso Falaye for Readers' Favorite

The importance of the health care industry was made more apparent by the Covid-19 pandemic, which sent an overwhelming number of unfortunate patients to hospitals and pushed our heroes in uniforms into desperate situations. When Craig C. Durie started writing a book about palliative medicine in 2019, he had no idea how a global pandemic in the coming year would challenge his work. In Speaking Human: A Journey in Palliative Medicine, Craig discusses palliative medicine and its importance, and at the same time relates different stories about his challenging and wholesome experiences as a palliative care nurse practitioner. Through the heartwarming, inspiring, and deeply compelling stories, we see real life examples of how palliative care is provided for the purpose of alleviating suffering among different people with serious and complex illnesses.

One beautiful thing about Speaking Human is how the different stories about people dealing with serious illnesses brought me to appreciate life more and reevaluate my values and choices. The vivid and mightily engaging account of Craig's experience as a nurse helped me to appreciate the sacrifices that our clinicians make to mitigate suffering and increase quality of life in different parts of the world. One particularly poignant story reveals the act of kindness that a dying woman displayed by donating her organs and saving the lives of three people. Thanks to the book's comprehensive, well-referenced explanations and helpful examples, I have a good idea of what palliative care entails and would recommend it, without hesitation, to anyone who might need it. Speaking Human contains incredibly useful insights for health care professionals and readers who have a friend or family member with a serious illness. Well done, Craig C. Durie!

Astrid Iustulin

Each job has its own characteristics, and only those who have worked for a long time in it have the authority to describe what they have seen and experienced. Craig C. Durie is one such person, and in his book Speaking Human: A Journey in Palliative Medicine, he recounts his experience as a palliative care nurse practitioner. In these pages, he offers a variety of events and dialogues with his patients and their relatives with the aim of explaining how to handle delicate situations. Among the topics, Durie covers transplants, artificial nutrition, palliative telemedicine, and how the Covid pandemic has impacted palliative medicine. We often forget the human side when dealing with patients, and Speaking Human has the purpose of putting people first again.

Speaking Human is a book that struck me for the author's sensitivity, which is evident right from the title. Who but someone who cares about his patients could think of dealing with an issue like this? While reading, I appreciated that Craig C. Durie talks about real-life situations and I immediately perceived his first-hand experience. I believe this is why the book has such an impact on the reader. It reveals things that many of us probably ignore - palliative medicine was almost unknown to me, but Durie's explanations are so precise that I never felt lost. I can only imagine what a valuable tool Speaking Human is for his colleagues who have to deal with situations like the ones described here. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn from an expert about this topic.

Lois Henderson

Speaking Human: A Journey in Palliative Medicine is by long-standing (over 25 years) nurse practitioner Dr. Craig C. Durie, who has specialized in palliative care for over a decade. This is a collection of exemplary stories of patients with, and whose families are affected by, serious illness. In this work on the importance of inpatient palliative consultation, the focus is on honest and open communication throughout some of the worst stages of illness. Only through empathic care and nurturing can life’s experiences at such a point be seen positively and holistically. Durie shows how this can be achieved. The significance of key elements of the nurturing and sustaining environment, like the need for ongoing and supportive human contact, is stressed throughout. Symptom management and the navigating of complex decision-making are discussed within the spectrum of palliative care, as it pertains to a number of patients.

I loved the use of direct speech in Dr. Craig C. Durie’s Speaking Human: A Journey in Palliative Medicine, as it made the work come alive, real, and at the coal face (or should one say “at the bedside?”). Instead of an objective, soulless third-person account, the reader is encouraged to come to grips with the importance of palliative care in the sometimes alienating and frightening world of modern-day medicine, including under pandemic conditions. Durie stresses the importance of skillful questioning, as well as how to develop many other skills that are key to effective assessment and treatment. The liveliness of the text is much aided by Durie’s appreciation of the importance of good humor and perspective within the hospital setting. All in all, this is a well-rounded and mature reflection, largely couched in terms of everyday discourse, of how the benefits of palliative medicine can best be achieved within the bounds of the contemporary clinical milieu.