I recall reading Dr. Sherwin Nuland’s celebrated book bearing the stark title “How We Die” on the jacket cover appropriately printed in black and white. It was a groundbreaking book written by an M.D. on the need to balance heroic battles against death with the focus on allowing the patient to die with dignity and on their own terms if they were able to participate in end of life decisions. The New York Times carried an elegant obituary for Dr. Nuland who died of prostate cancer at his home on Monday. I was reminded of his description of being called “Shepsie”, the nickname for his given name: Shepsel Ber Nudelman, subsequently trading it in to become Sherwin Bernard Nuland.
“Nuland” was the perfect name for the son of an immigrant whose roots Shepsie looked to shed, as tenaciously as his father had resisted assimilating into his new land. It evidently stood him in good stead when he won the competition to become chief surgical resident at Yale-New Haven Hospital in 1958, which apparently came with a certain psychological toll. Amazing to think that experienced depression so severe that his psychiatrists recommended a lobotomy. Thankfully his brain was spared so that he could share his insights through the gift of writing.