Accidental Kindness is part memoir and part critique of medical training and practice. No doctor enters the medical profession expecting to be unkind or to make mistakes, but because of the complexity of our medical system and because doctors are human, they often find themselves acting much less kindly than they would like to. These essays touch on poverty, racism, class inequality and leave the reader, I hope, with new knowledge of and insights into what might go wrong, or right, in the most intimate clinical moments.
Praise for ACCIDENTAL KINDNESS
“A wise exploration of the balance at the heart of medicine: one that is mastered, for the most part, far from the classroom.” -- Harvard Magazine
“It’s a memoir of sorts: Stein reflects on several situations in which, as a primary care physician, he felt that he had failed in kindness towards one patient or another. On one occasion his frustration with a less than compliant patient expressed itself in a cruel comment; another time, he didn’t wholly respect the wishes of a dying man to be allowed to die. What ties the segments of this book together isn’t merely the topic of medical practice. Stein’s candour, curiosity and ethical engagement admit us to a different realm from the fast-paced medical narratives we’re used to reading. He refuses to simplify. Can kindness be taught? Should it be taught? And what is kindness in the first place? Stein may be guiding us toward a Socratic impasse, but, as with Platonic dialogues, we learn a great deal along the way.” --Rachel Hadas, Times Literary Supplement
Publishers Weekly, in a starred review called it, "Vivid, candid, and shot through with compassion—it makes for an investigation that’s tough to forget...This is a standout."
“Anyone practicing to be more human, that is, practicing to be more kind in this troubling world, will be inspired by Michael Stein’s lucid and penetrating meditation on empathy. This book has deep wisdom and hope. I read it in one sitting, and felt that I was drinking powerful medicine in the form of prose." --Sarah Ruhl, Pulitzer Prize finalist, playwright, and author of Smile, a memoir
“In this beautifully written meditation, Stein talks about trying to be the doctor his patients needed, what he did when he fell short, and how working through the challenges of his impossible profession made him a different physician and a different man. This is so much more than a book about medicine. It’s about self-acceptance, being an adult, and facing up to what our jobs really require. We all need to discover our capacity for kindness, empathy, and self-compassion. Riveting.” --Sherry Turkle, MIT Professor, Bestselling Author of Reclaiming Conversation and The Empathy Diaries
“With refreshing candor and page-turning prose, Stein dives deep into his own experience as a medical student, internist, son, and patient to look at the ways that doctor-patient interactions can influence care and patient outcomes and what happens when doctors make mistakes. One of the most powerful, honest, and insightful books I’ve read by a doctor."
--Belle Boggs, author of The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood