"Controversies in the Practice of Medicine," a new book co-written by Mark A. Goldstein, chief of pediatrics and student health services in MIT Medical, outlines 15 different philosophical dilemmas encountered by doctors and patients during the life cycle.
Opening and concluding chapters explore questions that doctors and family members face over extending the lives of gravely ill loved ones, whether newborn or elderly. Other chapters take on topics ranging from the debate over national health insurance to alternative medicine, animal rights and the role of spirituality.
"Controversies" was written by Goldstein and his wife, Myrna Chandler Goldstein, a senior writer for "Hospital News Massachusetts" and "Hospital News Connecticut."
"We tried to select controversies that had the most wide-ranging general interest--topics likely to appear on the radar screens of large numbers of people. The goal ... was to help you begin a dialogue with your peers and encourage you to learn more," the authors wrote in their introduction.
Keeping in mind their intended audience--adolescent and college-age readers--the Goldsteins end each chapter of "Controversies" with a user-friendly textbook section, including topics for discussion, a list of references and suggestions for further investigation on the web.
But they also warn readers that pursuing any topic in the book will lead them to further controversies. "Always carefully evaluate the source [of information]. Do not necessarily assume that every source is authoritative or even correct," they write.
Looking back on the "Controversies" project, Goldstein himself acknowledged, "The book required an extraordinary amount of research. But it was a wonderful learning experience."
Given recent events, he would also have included other controversies, he said. "We obviously should have included stem cell research, an extremely controversial topic. Subsequent to the events of Sept. 11, a chapter on bioterrorism would have been useful," he noted.
The Goldsteins keep up with medicine by reading medical journals including The New England Journal of Medicine and The New York Times. A current favorite book is "Surviving the Fall" by Peter A. Selwyn, M.D., which chronicles the author's personal experience with the AIDS epidemic in New Haven, Conn.
Goldstein's next book projects are "The Guide to Adolescent Health," which will be published by the Harvard University Press in 2003, and a book on nutritional controversies. He and his wife have also written "Boys into Men: Staying Healthy through the Teen Years" (Greenwood, 2000).
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 28, 2001.