Books: The Philosopher's Stone

MORTAL LESSONS: NOTES ON THE ART OF SURGERY by RICHARD SELZER

219 pages. Simon & Schuster. $8.95.

Would-be surgeons are required to study Gray's Anatomy before walking into the operating room. They ought to study Mortal Lessons as assiduously. Medical texts can only teach the location of the internal organs and explain the techniques of surgery. Richard Selzer forces physicians to think about the morality of medicine — and to search for meaning in the rituals of an art "at once murderous, painful, healing and full of love."

Selzer is hardly the first M.D....

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