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Accidental Kindness
Accidental Kindness artfully examines the often conflicting goals of patients and their doctors. In those differences, Stein recognizes that kindness should not be a patient's forbidden or unrealistic expectation. This book leaves us with new knowledge of and insights into what we might hope for, and what might go wrong, or right, in the most intimate clinical moments.



Internist Stein (Broke: Patients Talk About Money with Their Doctor) reflects on why empathy and kindness matter in these frank and probing essays. In “Remains,” he recalls his early days in medical school, when his “first patient” was a cadaver: “I expected there to be something, anything, in the room besides the gleaming silver and the gray light and the silence.” “Losing Control” is a powerful account of how, frustrated with an HIV patient who kept forgetting to take her medicine, Stein broke a promise with the woman to never mention the diagnosis in front of her daughter, and “Making Impressions” sees Stein become the patient when he seeks a surgeon to address a tumor in his skull. “Full Hearted and Half Empty” is a moving investigation of what’s required for doctors to maintain empathy and composure while communicating bad news or executing painful procedures. “Is there a point where we can no longer differentiate ourselves from others, and all our patients’ pain is ours?” Stein asks. His incisive articulation of the emotional challenges faced by doctors is rendered in prose that’s vivid, candid, and shot through with compassion—it makes for an investigation that’s tough to forget. This is a standout. - Publishers Weekly


“Michael Stein is a thoughtful, compassionate, exceptional physician, and the same qualities are evident on every page of Accidental Kindness. These intimate and breath-taking patient stories remind me that the essence of medicine is to ease suffering, however and wherever and in whomever it occurs.” - Dr. Gavin Francis, author of Adventures in Being Human


“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


“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


"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

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