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In “Mortal Lessons

In “Mortal Lessons: The Surgeon as Priest”(1974), surgeon and writer Richard Selzer discusses the close relationship between medicine and spirituality. Selzer displays this link through narration techniques such as sharing personal anecdotes with “medical miracles” of cancer cured with holy water and a monk healer, incorporating similes that compare surgical procedures to a religious “Mass served with body and blood,” and using diction to relate a medical point of view of “congenital heart disease” to a religious point of view of the disease as a “gateway in the heart.” He uses these personal experiences and comparisons in order to demonstrate how surgery should be looked upon most similarly to a religious ritual; both doctors and religious healers intending to cure the patient of disease that is “assailed as though it were a sin.” In this piece, Selzer addresses a medical and scientific audience, to prove a different point of view on the medical world that is known to them, with an awestruck tone as he recounts his first-hand experiences with successful spiritual techniques, like monk Yeshi Dhonden’s, that ultimately exceeded medical expectations.