Resources for Discussion Group Leaders

Questions Set 1

  1. Final Exam is about Pauline Chen’s education by two very different sets of teachers: doctors and patients. What does she learn from doctors? What does she learn from patients? In what ways are these lessons incompatible? Have you experienced or heard of something similar?
  2. Chen draws upon her experiences with real patients. What do these people add to the story she tells in Final Exam?
  3. In Chapter 1, Pauline Chen writes: “The daily confrontation with a dead body, the first stranger’s body that medical students may have ever examined so closely, marks a point of high anxiety in medical education.” During your professional education, can you describe any events similar to Pauline Chen’s experiences in anatomy class? How did you learn to cope with the feelings and anxiety that you may not have encountered before?
  4. What makes Chen’s story compelling and interesting to you? In what ways does Final Exam read more like a novel than a book of nonfiction?
  5. Reflect on Chen’s statement that doctors “learn not only to avoid but also to define death as the result of errors, imperfect technique, and poor judgment. Death is no longer a natural event but a ritual gone awry” [p. 95]. What are the consequences, for patients and for health care professionals, of this way of defining death?
  6. Has reading Final Exam caused you to think differently about life and death? How could you use the book to start a discussion with your family about their end-of-life wishes?

Questions Set 2

Adapted from the LitLovers website

  1. Pauline Chen paints a detailed culture of the professional culture in which she works. What does she celebrate in that culture? What does she criticize?
  2. Does she wish to preserve or reform the professional culture? If reform, in what way? What would be gained and what would be at risk if the professional culture in which she works was changed as she imagines?
  3. How does the professional culture described in Final Exam differ from the professional culture in which you work? How is it similar?
  4. Does Final Exam offer a central idea or premise? Do you think the problems Pauline Chen raises are personal, spiritual, societal, global, economic or scientific?

Humnanities Texas Logo