Quotes from The House of God

Samuel Shem ·  416 pages

Rating: (11.5K votes)


“The patient is the one with the disease”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“Life's like a penis; When it's soft you can't beat it; When it's hard you get screwed. - The Fat Man, Medical Resident in The House of God”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“Basch: So why don't you ask her out?

The Runt: I'm scared she wouldn't like me and say no.

-So what? What have you got to lose?

-The possibility -if she says no- that she might have said yes. Whatever I do, I don't want to lose that possibility.”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“Law XIII. THE DELIVERY OF MEDICAL CARE IS TO DO AS MUCH NOTHING AS POSSIBLE”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“There is no body cavity that cannot be reached with a number fourteen needle and a good strong arm.”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God



“It's an incredible paradox that being a doctor is so degrading and yet is so valued by society”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“Gomers are human beings who have lost what goes into being human beings. They want to die, and we will not let them.”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“To do nothing for the gomers was to do something, and the more conscientiously I did nothing the better they got.”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“I found myself thinking of Potts as a tragic figure, a guy who'd been a happy towheaded kid you'd love to take fishing with you, who'd mistakenly invested in academic medicine when he'd have been happy in his family business, and who'd become a splattered mess on the parking lot of a hospital in a city he'd despised. What had been the seductiveness of medicine? Why?”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“We were putting into these gomers our fear of death, but who knew if they feared death? Perhaps they welcomed death like a dear long-lost cousin, grown old but still known, coming to visit, relieving the loneliness, the failing of the senses, the fury of the half-blind looking into the mirror and not recognizing who is looking back, a dear friend, a dear reliever, a healer who would be with them for an eternity, the same eternity as the long ago, before birth.”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God



“I realized with alarm that I hadn’t learned how to save anyone at all, not Dr. Sanders or Lazarus or Jimmy or Saul or Anna O., and that what I was thrilled about was learning how to save myself.”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“It ain't easy to do nothing, now that society is telling everyone that their body is fundamentally flawed and about to self-destruct. People are afraid they're on the verge of death all the time”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“This wine makes me feel like I’m bathed in amnion, breathless, fed by the motherbloodflow in the umbilical vein, fetal, slippery and tumbling over and over in the warmth of the beating womb, warm amnion, warmnion.”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“You know what they say: It's better to have dyspareuned than never to have pareuned at all.”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“Every intern makes mistakes. The important thing is neither to make the same mistakes twice nor to make a whole bunch of mistakes all at once.”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God



“Key concept," said the Fat Man, "to think that you're doing a shitty job. If you resign yourself to doing a shitty job, you go ahead and get the job done, and since we're all in the ninety-ninth percentile of interns, at one of the best ternships in the world, what you do turns out to be a terrific job, a superlative job. Don't forget that four out of every ten interns in America can't speak English.”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“Hmm. Say, did that BMS has a hobby?'
The head nurse picked up the chart, turned to the special section created by Pinkus, called 'Hobbies," and said, 'Nope. No hobby.'
'There,' said Pinkus. 'See? No hobby. He didn't have a hobby, do you understand? Do you have a hobby, Roy?'
With some alarm I realized that I did not, and said so.
'You should have at least one.”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“But gomers are not just dear old people,” said Fats. “Gomers are human beings who have lost what goes into being human beings. They want to die, and we will not let them. We’re cruel to the gomers, by saving them, and they’re cruel to us, by fighting tooth and nail against our trying to save them. They hurt us, we hurt them.”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“I’ve been drunk while swimming in the river, at noon the temperature of water, air, and body all the same, so that I can’t tell where body ends and water begins and it’s a melding of the universe, with the river curling round our bodies, cool and warm rushes intermingling in lost patterns, filling all times and all depths.”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“To look forward to whatever flowed through the doors. To save a life? Two lives? I felt proud. The burden of treating the intractable, untreatable, unplaceable, unwanted, had been replaced by the fantasy of being a real doctor, dealing with real disease.”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God



“Sometimes, drunk, I ruminate on the state of my liver, and think of all the cirrhotics I have watched turn yellow and die. They either bleed out, raving, coughing up and drowning in blood from ruptured esophageal veins, or, in coma, they slip away, slip blissfully away down the yellow-brick ammonia-scented road to oblivion.”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“The thing is," said Gilheeny, "is that we live in constant fear of our lives. It makes the blood pressure elevate like an Arabian geyser, and the tension headaches we get would knock the balls off a bull with the twist in the maxillary sinuses themselves.”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“when Mrs. Risenshein arrested and I was surprised to hear myself cursing under my breath as I resuscitated her, “I wish she would die so I could just go to sleep,” and I was shocked when I realized that I’d just wished a human being dead so I could go to sleep. Animal. Eat”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


“Just remember, though—your freedom means my freedom too.”
― Samuel Shem, quote from The House of God


About the author

Samuel Shem
Born date January 1, 1944
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