Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures

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The National Post caught up with Vincent to talk about the process of "remixing" his book into television's 'Bloodlettting. Weinstein Books releases the short story collection in the United States. Read more about the U. It's also a Publishers Weekly starred review , while Kirkus Reviews highlights Vincent as a bold, exciting new voice. Why do I feel calm, having said that? They used to tie the woman down. At other times, this switch causes confusion.

The reader may come away feeling that a side-character was more distracting than developmental. Such is the case of Delores, a mid-career nurse assigned to treat patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

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While her circumstance is dire, she adds only minimal understanding of the main players. Lam spends many pages exploring Chen and Fitzgerald and far fewer on Sri and Ming, who seemed equally engaging. Mostly, however, the shifting perspective method works to deliver as complete a portrait as possible of each physician. Readers with less medical savvy will benefit from the explanations provided in a glossary of terms. Bloodletting succeeds because it challenges the myth that doctors are omnipotent and medicine is objective.

Instead, this book offers a complex rendition of hospital life, one that is simultaneously valuable for its literary merits and relevant to the field of bioethics. Lam's complex rendition of medicine, hospitals and doctors makes the collection appealing for all kinds of readers, from those who cannot tell a crash cart from a cardiogram to health-care insiders who may well recognize their own experiences on the pages of Bloodletting. For instance, in "How to Get into Medical School, Part 1", we are introduced to Ming, a no-nonsense and meticulous undergraduate student.

She has finished her molecular biology exam characteristically early but is lingering to time her exit from the classroom with Fitzgerald, the artistic study partner with whom she has shared many late nights in the library. Their romantic, post-exam exchange in which Ming gushes to Fitzgerald, "Thank you for explaining the Kreb's cycle to me," will bring a smile of recognition to those for whom undergraduate crushes have developed in the depths of library basements — and for those who have endeavoured to learn the Kreb's cycle.

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In "Take All of Murphy", we enter the anatomy cadaver dissection lab, which Lam describes as the "first rite of medical school". We are introduced to Sri, "the sentimental wreck who can't even cut open an arm", and his classmate, Chen. Here, our medical students are confronted with the first of many ethical dilemmas presented throughout the stories. In this case, the students argue over whether or not to cut through the biblical scripture text tattooed on their cadaver.

Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures: The miserable life of a resident doctor

This is the first of many instances whereby cut-and-dry rules collide with nebulous real-world situations. By the seventh story, "Eli", our characters are now physicians.

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Fitzgerald is a trauma doctor juggling a chaotic emergency room when two police officers arrive with their arrested suspect, Eli. He requires medical care for a head wound that is likely the result of police brutality. In this story, Fitzgerald, who was gentle and sincere as a medical student, has transformed into a shrewd and forthright adversary within a system of power struggles.

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures - Wikipedia

Eli is a physical threat, but it is the police officers whom Fitzgerald approaches with the most cunning and suspicion. Once again, Lam removes the crisp white lab coat from the profession and gives us a view of medicine as marred and, to some extent, unheroic.


By the time we reach "Night Flight" near the end of the collection, Fitzgerald has developed a substance addiction. As a result, he has been forced to leave his position at the hospital and is now employed as a travel physician, a line of work in which he can keep his addiction hidden. However, Fitzgerald's substance use is the least of the ethical concerns raised in this story of a woman attempting to med-evac her dying husband from Guatemala to Canada. Additionally, we are introduced to conflicts between public and private health insurers, rich and poor country medical capacities, and hurtful truth-telling versus compassionate lying.

Throughout these and his other stories, Lam paints a picture of physicians as well-intentioned, partly-competent masters of illusion. They are men and women who hold the pose of confidence and certainty without always possessing it. Their authority, knowledge, and apparent control of the situation are often manufactured to serve professional and, occasionally, personal ends.

For those reasons, the last story's final image functions as a metaphor for the entire collection.

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures

After a tiring and frantic night shift in the emergency room, Chen returns home to a darkened bedroom: "The light through the blinds falls diagonally in fat stripes on the floor, and is warm on the carpet whose stains are highlighted and made attractive, important. It is the doctors' foul-ups, the valiant attempts, the guesswork, and the emotional turmoil that are made important here, not their enlightenment, their objectivity, nor their cold, clinical perspective.

This version of medical science and its practitioners is crucial and sets it apart from other contemporary renditions that celebrate doctors as infallible knights in shining white-lab-coat armour and science as completely reliable and failsafe.

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