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About Rachel Clarke
Her latest book, The Sunday Times number 3 bestseller DEAR LIFE, has just been shortlisted for the 2020 Costa Book awards, and was long-listed for the 2020 Baillie Gifford Prize. It is based on her work in a hospice and explores love, loss, grief, dying and what matters at the end of life. The Costa biography judges described it as: "A beautifully written, powerfully moving book that tackles an emotive and difficult subject with professional compassion and personal insight."
On 28 January 2021, Rachel's new book BREATHTAKING: INSIDE THE NHS IN A TIME OF PANDEMIC will be published. It aims to capture what it was really like inside the NHS for patients, staff and families during the first wave of Covid-19. It is available to pre-order here.
Rachel has written for the Guardian, Sunday Times, New York Times, Independent, Telegraph, Prospect, BMJ, NEJM and Lancet. She has appeared on BBC Radio 4 Today, BBC Newsnight, Channel 4 News, BBC Woman's Hour, ITV News and Sky News, among others. Her first book, the Sunday Times bestselling YOUR LIFE IN MY HANDS, depicted life for a junior doctor on the NHS frontline.
Rachel cares deeply about helping patients live the end of their lives as fully and richly as possible - and in the power of human stories to build empathy and inspire change.
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In Dear Life, palliative care specialist Dr. Rachel Clarke recounts her professional and personal journey to understand not the end of life, but life at its end.
Death was conspicuously absent during Rachel's medical training. Instead, her education focused entirely on learning to save lives, and was left wanting when it came to helping patients and their families face death. She came to specialize in palliative medicine because it is the one specialty in which the quality, not quantity of life truly matters.
In the same year she started to work in a hospice, Rachel was forced to face tragedy in her own life when her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He'd inspired her to become a doctor, and the stories he had told her as a child proved formative when it came to deciding what sort of medicine she would practice. But for all her professional exposure to dying, she remained a grieving daughter.
Dear Life follows how Rachel came to understand—as a child, as a doctor, as a human being—how best to help patients in the final stages of life, and what that might mean in practice.
How does it feel to be spat out of medical school into a world of pain, loss and trauma that you feel wholly ill-equipped to handle?
To be a medical novice who makes decisions which - if you get them wrong - might forever alter, or end, a person's life?
To toughen up the hard way, through repeated exposure to life-and-death situations, until you are finally a match for them?
In this heartfelt, deeply personal account of life as a junior doctor in today's health service, former television journalist turned doctor, Rachel Clarke, captures the extraordinary realities of ordinary life on the NHS front line. From the historic junior doctor strikes of 2016 to the 'humanitarian crisis' declared by the Red Cross, the overstretched health service is on the precipice, calling for junior doctors to draw on extraordinary reserves of what compelled them into medicine in the first place - and the value the NHS can least afford to lose - kindness.
Your Life in My Hands is at once a powerful polemic on the systematic degradation of Britain's most vital public institution, and a love letter of optimism and hope to that same health service and those who support it. This extraordinary memoir offers a glimpse into a life spent between the operating room and the bedside, the mortuary and the doctors' mess, telling powerful truths about today's NHS frontline, and capturing with tenderness and humanity the highs and lows of a new doctor's first steps onto the wards in the context of a health service at breaking point - and what it means to be entrusted with carrying another's life in your hands.
'Eloquent and moving' - Henry Marsh
'There have been many books written by young doctors... but none comes close to Clarke's' - Sunday Times
'From the very heart of the NHS comes this brilliant insight into the continuing crisis in the health service. Rachel Clarke writes as the accomplished journalist she once was and as the leading junior doctor she now is - writing with humanity and compassion that at times reduced me to tears.' - Jon Snow, Channel 4 News
'Dr Clarke has written a blockbuster, a page-turner, a tear-jerker. This is a "from-the-heart" front-line account of the human cost of the wanton erosion of a magnificent ideal - healthcare free at the point of need, funded through public taxation, available to all - made real in the UK for near 70 years. It is a love-song for the wonderful National Health Service that has embodied - to an extent equalled nowhere in the world - the principle that healthcare is not a commodity but a great duty of state.' - Prof. Neena Modi, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
'A powerful account of life on the NHS frontline. If only Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt could see the passion behind the people in the NHS, they might stop treating them as the enemy, and understand that without them we don't have an NHS worth the name.' - Alastair Campbell