Book Review - A Doctor's Calling: A matter of conscience

A Doctor’s Calling: A matter of conscience by Hazel J Magnussen. Parksville: Wembley Publishing, 2006. ISBN 0-9739843-0-9. $26.95

I had the good fortune to be in the audience when Ms Magnussen spoke at the International Conference on Physician Health in 2002. With eloquence and grace, she told us about the murder of her beloved brother Dr Doug Snider in 1999 in the small northern Alberta town of Fairview. He was felled by another physician, Dr Abe Cooper, now serving time for manslaughter. Dr Snider’s body has never been found. Now she has written this book, a loving tribute to her brother, a chronicle of his life and death.

The story is well known to the Canadian public so I won’t reiterate it here. But I do want to say a few words about the content and form of the book. Ms Magnussen writes well and engages the reader from start to finish. She accomplishes this not only with her fine prose but also with touching photographs of Dr Snider and other family members. She honors her brother by giving us much biographical detail of how he lived, not just how he died. This is important because too often individuals who suffer a violent death are eclipsed (and inadvertently diminished) by how they die. She walks us through the details of the interpersonal conflicts at Fairview Hospital Complex, the dismissal of Dr Cooper and his retaliatory lawsuit, the disappearance of Dr Snider, the stunned and grief-ridden family and community, the gathering of evidence, and the protracted trial. We learn how skewed our criminal justice system is. The book’s appendices are key, especially the recommendations that Ms Magnussen makes for regulatory reform.

This slim volume is important reading for all Canadian physicians. It gives us much insight into disruptive behavior by physicians in the medical workplace, an increasingly common and pressing issue in our health care system. It is a phenomenon that we must never take lightly. Our nation’s colleges of physicians and surgeons, provincial physician health programs, and all physicians in leadership and managerial positions will learn from Ms Magnussen’s gripping account and wise words. May Dr Snider’s life not be in vain.

Michael F. Myers, MD,. Book Review - A Doctor's Calling: A matter of conscience. BCMJ, Vol. 49, No. 9, November, 2007, Page(s) 504 - News.

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Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.

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