Oliver Sacks says goodbye

Neurologist, research scientist, and author Oliver Wolf Sacks revealed in a New York Times Op-Ed piece that he has terminal cancer.

His book Awakenings, which chronicled the joys and disappointments of patients treated with L-dopa, is a well-known work that was the basis for a movie of the same name starring Robin Williams in 1990. With The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, Sacks shares further stories of patients. Sacks’s works often portrayed case studies from his practice to “advocate re-humanizing the medical arts.”**

As may be expected of a man of the mind, his goodbye is focused, logical, and dare I say, shows a kind of contentment. He writes, “It is up to me to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can.” He leaves the present issues and crises to the future, which he feels “is in good hands.” Sacks ruminates over the loss of contemporaries, noting that his passing was inevitable.

He ends his piece with an ode to individuals:

“There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate—the genetic and neural fate—of every human being to be a unique individual.”

Oliver Sacks is indeed a unique individual who has worked to bring understanding to a subject area that is often eschewed simply for its incomprehensibility. Sacks’s work has inspired movies, plays, and even an opera. His autobiography will be published this spring and he has several other works that are “nearly finished.”



**Source: Biography in Context

Other quoted material from the New York Times.

BBC News Oliver Sacks on science, art and awakening the brain