REVIEW O F RECENT BOOKS
Bethune (2nd ed) By Roderick Stewart Harnden, CT, Archon Books, 1979 210 p p , illustrated, $15.00
Reviewed by Lyman A . Brewer, 111, M . D . The name of Bethune is known to this generation of thoracic surgeons because of his efficient rib shears in use today. But should we know more about this contumacious idealist, who broke with conservative Canadian medical and Western democratic tradition and died for the people of communist China? In a painstakingly documented, three-year study involving interviews with more than 150 people in six countries, the author emphasizes that we should. The story of Bethune is that of a brilliant, erratic, sometimes contradictory crusader who fought with tenacious determination for causes that were dear to him. When it was discovered that he had pulmonary tuberculosis, he went to Trudeau Sanitorium. This experience gave him an interest in thoracic surgery and a compassion for the poor, who in that era generally died of lack of antituberculosis treatment. Bethune believed that universal medical care provided by the state was the answer. His idealism drove him to Spain to support the Loyalists. However, on his return to Canada, June 14, 1937, to raise money for this cause, his increasingly leftist and finally pro-communist lectures provoked a storm of criticism and made it almost impossible for him to return to his former position in thoracic surgery. The opportunity to serve with the communist forces in China in January, 1938, opened up a new way of life for Bethune. During the twenty-one months he was with the 8th Route Army, Bethune developed a network of mobile field hospitals, which were located close to the front lines and geared to guerilla warfare, and a practical training school for army surgeons, and compiled the textbook for this field medical school. It was in one of these forward mobile hospitals during an operation on a broken leg that the chisel Bethune was using sliced into the middle finger of his left hand. A virulent, apparently streptococcal infection developed. Without sulfa drugs, antibiotics, or proper care, the infection
spread and in less than two weeks, on November 12, 1939, Bethune died of septicemia. Roderick Stewart has captured the thrill and excitement that this arrogant and extraordinary man found in serving the peasants of China. He has demonstrated how Bethune’s passionate commitment to the communist cause became an example for 800 million Chinese people to follow. With the current rapprochement between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, the chronicle of this Westerner fanatically devoted to an ideal (which he believed was the start of international peace) and, because of it, unmindful of the most appalling conditions under which he worked, becomes an important and truly fascinating story.
Lorna Linda, C A
Trauma to the Heart and Great Vessels By Panagiotis N. Symbas, M . D . New York, Grune 6 Stratton, 1978 200 p p , illustrated, $24.50
Reviewed by J. Kent Trinkle, M . D . This book is written by a surgeon who obviously is experienced in managing cardiovascular trauma. He did not merely compile information from the literature, but drew heavily on his experience and that of his colleagues. The book covers intrathoracic cardiovascular trauma in great detail and has an extensive bibliography. It is not suitable for an evening of ”light reading,” but is very valuable as a reference text or an intensive review of a specific problem. The numerous illustrations aid the reader’s understanding of anatomy, pathophysiology, and operative technique. I recommend that this book be included in medical libraries and used as a reference for trainees in thoracic surgery. It is less suitable for medical students or emergency room physicians who wish to acquire some general knowledge.
Sun Antonio, TX