TagThe New Yorker

Reading of the Week: Gawande’s New Yorker Essay on Primary Care (and, Yes, Mental Health)

From the Editor

How is health care changing?

To answer that question, we look this week not to a medical journal, but to The New Yorker. We consider an essay not on new drugs or imaging, but on the quiet rise of… primary care.

Primary care and the future

Dr. Atul Gawande writes a long essay on the virtues of primary care. Considering how medicine has shifted from acute care to chronic illness, he describes the importance of primary care, drawing on his own training and thinking – and the cardiac issues of his son.

Though this essay doesn’t directly consider mental illness, it is very relevant.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Mukherjee’s Essay on Schizophrenia, Genetics, and His Uncle

From the Editor

This is a moving essay about family and loss – and the long shadow of mental illness.

It’s lengthy, but worth the time.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: The New Yorker Essay on De Troyer (and Carter v. Canada)

In her diary, Godelieva De Troyer classified her moods by color. She felt “dark gray” when she made a mistake while sewing or cooking. When her boyfriend talked too much, she moved between “very black” and “black!” She was afflicted with the worst kind of “black spot” when she visited her parents at their farm in northern Belgium. In their presence, she felt aggressive and dangerous. She worried that she had two selves, one “empathetic, charming, sensible” and the other cruel.

She felt “light gray” when she went to the hairdresser or rode her bicycle through the woods in Hasselt, a small city in the Flemish region of Belgium, where she lived. At these moments, she wrote, she tried to remind herself of all the things she could do to feel happy: “demand respect from others”; “be physically attractive”; “take a reserved stance”; “live in harmony with nature.” She imagined a life in which she was intellectually appreciated, socially engaged, fluent in English (she was taking a class), and had a “cleaning lady with whom I get along very well.”

So begins this week’s reading, an essay by writer Rachel Aviv that was just published in The New Yorker.

It’s a moving and tragic story of a woman who struggles with low mood. If she dreams of fluent English and a cleaning lady, her life takes a turn for the worse: after a breakup, she “feels black again.” Loss and estrangement replace hope and love. After years of struggling, the near elderly woman ultimately chooses to end her life. But she doesn’t die by her own hand; she dies in a clinic at the hands of a physician. To us Canadians, this is a story that is both familiar – involving psychiatry and medications – and unfamiliar – euthanasia and state-sanctioned doctor-assisted suicide.

De Troyer’s life and death occurs an ocean away, in Belgium. But, in light of a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Carter v. Canada, a question to ask: how will doctor-assisted suicide reshape psychiatry in this country? Continue reading