Office of Faculty Development
1/9/2009 "The Mercy Rule," by Perri Klass, MD
On an early January day, Dr. Perri Klass, an award winning fiction writer, physician, and former Children's Hospital resident, discussed her newest novel, The Mercy Rule, and her development as a doctor and author to a large, spirited group of workshop participants. The workshop, sponsored by the Office of Faculty Development and the Library, also covered the inter-related aspects of journalism and medical experience, as well as a reading of a few pages of The Mercy Rule.
Growing up in a family of writers, Dr. Klass was raised with the conception that "writing was part of enjoying the world" and was sending short stories to publications when she was in medical school. She readily admitted that most of her efforts received rejections, but she quickly recovered and continued to write narratives that brought her out of the medical school training tunnel. However, while in residency at Children's Hospital, she composed fiction involving the medical profession. The characters were not people she perceived as similar to herself, but her medical experiences as a young doctor were now part of her overall vision. The Mercy Rule itself developed initially as Dr. Klass considered the uncomfortable process of how doctors who are parents are placed in the position to judge the skills of other parents.
Dr. Klass traced the psychological links between being a writer (particularly, a journalist) and being a doctor: both have curiosity about people, are often asking personal questions, attempt to make connections with others, and try to bring an interview to a discussion about what is guarded. She reminded writers that the most intriguing or compelling story is generally not about what you might immediately assume in a medical scenario, but as a fiction writer, "you do choose the ending, unlike being a doctor."
In addition to being a writer, Dr. Klass is preceptor in Pediatric Clinics at Bellevue Hospital, Medical Director of the non-profit literacy organization Reach Out and Read, and Professor of Journalism and Pediatrics at New York University.
*Copies of The Mercy Rule and other books by Perri Klass, MD, are available in the CHB Library