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In Memoriam: Richard Selzer
June 16, 2016
We were saddened to learn of the death of Dr. Richard Selzer—writer, surgeon, humanist, and long-time friend and editorial board member of the Bellevue Literary Review. Dr. Selzer was one of the first physicians to bring the world of medicine to the literary stage. His essays and short stories were vivid, engrossing and often unsettling. In the story “Mercy,” a doctor faces a patient with end-stage cancer in intractable pain, who desperately wants to die. The doctor injects a fatal dose of morphine to help the patient end his misery, but the patient doesn’t die. The doctor then debates whether he should suffocate the patient to help him.
Richard Selzer used his literary scalpel to open up the world of medicine to the rest of us. He probed and exposed that world in all its glory, shame, and inconsistency. We were lucky to have his sharp eye to guide us in this world for the nearly half century in which he wrote prolifically. He will be missed.