Lost Password

Book Review

Publisher's Note:

The unique stories in Doctor Confidential speak directly to anyone in medical training or considering a career in medicine, but also to the patient in all of us. Pulling back the veil of secrecy that too often surrounds medicine, Doctor Confidential provides compassion, humor, and ultimately hope that, when sick and most vulnerable, each of us can be heard, understood, and deeply touched by our physician. Richard Sheff, MD is a family physician with over 30 years of experience in medicine. He chose the specialty of family medicine because he wanted to see and treat patients as whole people whose illness and wellness are a result of the complex interplay of their biological, psychological, social, and cultural circumstances. The years have taught him that to this must be added recognition of each patient's spiritual circumstances if they are truly to be seen as a whole person, including understanding their illness and wellness.…

Doctor Confidential

by Richard Sheff, M.D.

Overall Book Review:

As a person who has spent a significant portion of her life in doctor’s offices and hospitals, a book that promised to give a look at the world of medicine from the other side of the exam table immediately sparked my interest. Doctor Confidential did not disappoint! A detailed memoir of Sheff’s training as a physician and his ultimate decision to pursue a practice in family medicine, Doctor Confidential examines the risks and benefits of how we train our doctors, the often-underrated role of compassion in the world of medicine, and the complex and multi-layered relationships between doctors and patients. It’s evident that the philosophies in this book are issues Sheff has spent decades mulling over; his compassion, humor, and genuine concern for making the doctor’s office a place a patient can feel truly seen and understood are all easily apparent on every page of Doctor Confidential. As a patient, I found myself agreeing with many of Sheff’s statements about what the doctor-patient relationship should look like—and, even more, I found myself feeling deep empathy and compassion for the doctors and medical professionals I interact with on a regular basis. Over the course of Doctor Confidential, Sheff explores a number of weighty topics, such as end-of-life care and the deep level of personal and social dysfunction that hounds many new doctors as they try to recover from a physically, emotionally, and mentally grueling training period. Throughout it all, Sheff writes with thoughtfulness and caring. Perfect for doctors, students, patients, or anyone who wants a closer look at the complex issues underlying today’s medical world, Doctor Confidential is the perfect read.

Content Analysis:

There is a considerable amount of mild profanity throughout the book, as well as a few moderate instances and a very few strong instances toward the beginning of the book.

Especially in the first chapter, which details Sheff’s class in Gross Anatomy (i.e., cadaver dissection) there is quite a bit of description of somewhat gory medical techniques—surgery (and dissection of cadavers), episiotomy, lumbar puncture, etc. Two or three times there is a passing reference to possible domestic abuse, though it’s never described or examined further. There are a few passing references to relationship dysfunction, including arguments between husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend, though never with physical violence.

There is sexual content in several areas of the book—working with the cadavers in Gross Anatomy (studying the sexual organs), two very crude comments made by (and one uncomfortable situation with) patients in a psychiatric hospital, learning to do a gynecological exam, and a week in class spent watching movies depicting sexual acts in order to be able to comfortably counsel patients with sexual problems later. A few times, the author will state that he or another character is obviously aroused; in a few places there are some crude thoughts or references. In a few instances, the author describes performing physical exams that often include examinations of intimate areas.

Mature Subject Matter:

There are strong themes throughout the book, relating to death; dying; the hard choices that physicians, patients, and families are faced with; and serious illness (including serious illness in children and infants). Throughout the book, these themes are treated with respect and thoughtfulness, and never dismissed lightly or without compassion.

Alcohol / Drug Use:


Overall Book Rating

Share This Post

About the Reviewer

As a kid, I used to tell people that I wanted to be a “professional book reviewer” when I grew up (along with writer/ballerina/figure skater/mom). I thought that any profession that involved the full-time reading of books was my idea of heaven. Getting the chance to review books is a little dream come true!