Lawrence J. Schneiderman, MD
Note: Dr. Schneiderman is a published novelist (Sea Nymphs by the Hour), short story writer (Pushcart Nomination), and playwright (DramaLogue award).
Requests for Single Reprints: Lawrence J. Schneiderman, MD, Departments of Family and Preventive Medicine and Medicine, 9500 Gilman Drive MC 0622, La Jolla, CA 92093; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Schneiderman L.; Empathy and the Literary Imagination. Ann Intern Med. 2002;137:627-629. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-137-7-200210010-00033
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2002;137(7):627-629.
Once while trying to persuade an adolescent diabetic patient to attend more carefully to her diet and insulin, I heard my voice echo in a strange chamber of my memory. Not the lecture hall with its erudite revelations of glucose and lipid metabolism, hyperglycemic pathologies, and insulin mechanisms of action, but rather the stunted, plaintive, haunted world of J.D. Salinger.
Let us first acknowledge that as rapturously complex as diabetes mellitus is to the scientist, the options available to the practitioner for treating this teenager are brutally simple: diet and insulin. The concepts and instructions I imparted were well within her comprehension. Yet it was impossible for me to “manage” her disease. She was the only one who could do so, a task she sullenly avoided even as her eyes under her matted hair, which she periodically shook into new disorders, avoided mine. As a result, this emotionally windswept young woman was in and out of hypoglycemia and coma and, of course, in and out of the hospital. Her future, I kept trying to remind her, grew dimmer with each lapse—which, I added encouragingly, could be avoided by the simplest of measures: diet and insulin. I heard myself endlessly repeating: “Do you understand me? Tell me what you are thinking. Why are you doing these things to yourself?”
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Print ISSN: 0003-4819 | Online ISSN: 1539-3704
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