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Battles of Life and Death


Battles of Life and Death is a collection of compelling essays about the process of becoming a doctor. From the burn unit, to pediatric clinics, to cancer wards, these tales of medical training are "a forceful and moving human experience" (Medical Tribune).

"Emotionally riveting. The writing is taut, accurate and unsentimental. And entertaining as well."

From Publishers Weekly
Psychiatrist and freelance journalist Hellerstein, son of a medical family, vividly and with considerable literary flair portrays the patients he treated during the stages of his internshipsurgery, neurology, etc.and his residency in psychiatry, which he chose as a specialty because "facts give way to feelings." The author, a graduate of Stanford University Medical School, leaves unnamed his training hospitals. His ingrained faith in medicine was shaken by seeing cases in which patients died from side effects of treatments intended to cure them, and by his realization that, despite modern technology, on occasion illnesses could not be diagnosed until after death. Other hopeless cases, he notes, though correctly diagnosed, foiled the efforts of even the most skillful doctors. Almost unbearable are his accounts of burn victimsone of the most effective chapters in this story of the making of a physician. Literary Guild alternate.


"a unique, beautifully written account of the making of a doctor.... a remarkable document--dramatic, moving and true." --Tobias Wolff, author of Back in the World

"... a wonderful book. The excitement, anguish, and joy of attending the sick are fully transmitted. The pace is fast, the style dramatic. David Hellerstein is a highly talented writer." --Richard Selzer, author of Mortal Lessons

"Dr. Hellerstein ends by writing with genuine insight and compassion." -- The New York Times