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Unassimilated parents


What I want to be remembered for
Sherwin Nuland Surgeon
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You know, I've said so many times that when I die, if the Times has an obituary on me, the headline, to my great regret… of course, I'll be dead, will say, author of How We Die. Sherwin Nuland, author of How We Die. That's not my greatest accomplishment. My greatest accomplishment is my family. My second greatest accomplishment is what I have been able to do for sick, sick people for so much of my life, starting when I was a medical student on the wards. I actually do feel that there's something distinctive about my attitude towards sick people, growing out of my experience as a child, that is unique. And it's given me huge gratification. The relationships with patients, the sitting on the side of the bed and talking to patients instead of sitting in a chair or standing at the head of the bed. You know, all of these little things, all the time that I took in my office with patients, rather than rushing anything through. Those personal relationships…

I think in my whole surgical career, I've saved about three lives that other people might not have been able to save just as well. One of them was the woman with the splenic artery aneurism, so it's not that. But I think in my entire career, I've brought something to many, many patients that perhaps other people might not have been able to bring. So that's where I feel my greatest accomplishment has been. So, when that headline is going to say, over my obituary, author of How We Die, that's not what I really want to be remembered for. What I want to be remembered for by the people who knew me, and worked with me, was: be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.

Sherwin Nuland (1930-2014) was an American surgeon and author who taught bioethics, the history of medicine, and medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine. He wrote the book How We Die which made The New York Times bestseller list and won the National Book Award. He also wrote about his own painful coming of age as a son of immigrants in Lost in America: A Journey with My Father. He used to write for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Time, and the New York Review of Books.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: How We Die

Duration: 2 minutes, 15 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2011

Date story went live: 04 November 2011