Delivering Doctor Amelia : The Story Of A Gifted Young Obstetrician’s Mistake And The Psychologist Who Helped Her / Dan Shapiro

When this book was published in 2003, Dan Shapiro was a psychologist who specialized in treating physicians. Delivering Doctor Amelia tells the story of one such clinician, Amelia Sorvino, a gifted obstetrician who finds herself in the grip of crippling self-doubt following a delivery that resulted in a poor outcome. Not only is she facing a malpractice suit, Amelia fears that she did make a mistake that caused the problem. As a result, she no longer feels capable of delivering other babies.

From the first session with Shapiro, Amelia seems to be holding back rather than opening up during her sessions. This leads to a growing suspicion on Shapiro’s part that he might be dealing with a suicidal patient. The book vividly documents the unfolding journey of self-discovery on the part of both patient and physician.

In his narrative, Shapiro introduces several other side stories. One is his earlier battle with Hodgkin’s disease, intertwined with the efforts with his wife to conceive a second child through in vitro fertilization. A third is his contrasting of Amelia’s case with another patient he has treated, a young girl scheduled to have a leg amputated because of a cancer diagnosis.

Shapiro does a good job of weaving these strands into the overall piece. My problem with the book centers on two issues. The first deals with Amelia herself; she did not seem believable to me as described by the author. I know Shapiro went out of his way to disguise her true identity; perhaps that led to my feeling that some essential piece of her was not captured on the page. The other issue centered on the fact that I learned more about Shapiro’s personality than I did Amelia’s.

These caveats aside, Delivering Doctor Amelia is the type of medical story that will most likely appeal to a wide audience. Its prose is easily understood by the layperson and the puzzle of Amelia is an interesting one. More importantly though, the topic addressed here is an important one. As the author shows, physicians suffer from high rates of mental health issues due to the stresses they face on the job. Finding a way to insure they succeed in their profession is a benefit to us all.

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