Drawing the Line: Life, Death, and Ethical Choices in an American Hospital


In 1985, philosopher Samuel Gorovitz spent seven weeks at Boston's Beth Israel, one of the nation's premier teaching hospitals, where he was given free run as "Authorized Snoop and Irritant-at-Large." In Drawing the Line, he provides an intense, disturbing, and insightful account of his observations during those seven weeks. Gorovitz guides us through an operating room and intensive care units, and takes us to meetings where surgeons discuss the mishaps of the preceding week, where internists map out their approaches to troublesome cases, where the administration discusses competition in the health care market. He follows as residents walk the ragged edge of physical exhaustion, as experienced physicians wrestle with the uncertainties of their demanding profession, as nurses struggle to care for perpetually declining patients. Most important, he examines the ethical questions that permeate their lives--deeply troubling questions such as who should be making life and death decisions--and how should they be made? How should scarce medical resources be allocated? What rules should govern the use of fetal tissue in research and treatment? Where should we draw the line, and how? When Samuel Gorovitz published Doctors' Dilemmas, a previous look at medical ethics, it was hailed by Norman Cousins as "stimulating and valuable...the product of a beautifully formed (and informed) mind." Studs Terkel called it "quite remarkable...a very exciting book indeed." In Drawing the Line, Gorovitz offers an unusual look at contemporary health care, combining a moving, hard-hitting glimpse of daily reality at a major hospital with the thoughtful, provocative reflections of a highly respected philosopher.

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • New York
Publication year:
  • 1991


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