Wow, is it a bad sign when I can't even think of anything worth writing in my "opening monologue" here? Last week was a fun week with all the time consuming yet worthwile link posts, but now I think it's about time to get down to the business of review writing. After all the link posts, this should be quick and painless, right? I received a copy of Complications by Atul Gawande as a Christmas gift. It's a book I'd been meaning to read for quite a while, especially given my unexpected career in the medical field. I work in a surgical pathology lab, which means, in a nutshell, that if you come to "my" hospital you won't know me or see me, but chances are I've seen a part of you (i.e. your skin biopsy, your appendix, your gallbladder and the list goes on). So, I'll admit straight off the bat, that my work, occasionally alongside surgeons and always in conjunction with them gave me a particular interest in this book. With that said, however, I think that this book is an engaging and worthwile read for anyone who has or might in the future be treated by a doctor. In other words, of course, I mean everybody should read it.
Complications is a collection of essays about Atul Gawande's experience as a surgeon and his acute observations of how the medical establishment is failing and succeeding. Gawande's essays offer us a look into the murky depths of practicing medicine that we fail to understand and appreciate despite our often frequent contact with the system. Broken up into three sections, Gawande's essays explore doctors' fallibility, unknowns and mysteries that often crop up in the treatment of patients, and, finally, uncertainty itself, a prospect we often fail to consider given the perpetual technological advancement that seems inherent in practicing medicine.
Gawande engages the reader using frequent case studies of patients he and his colleagues have encountered. These serve to draw the reader in and also as great jumping off points for Gawande to tackle the struggles and questions that plague both doctors and patients about the state of medicine today. In Complications, Gawande contemplates the mystery of pain, questions how we do and essentially must entrust patient care to doctors in training, the improbable victory of a surgeon's instinct over facts and logic, and many more fascinating topics.
Complications is an important book. It's a book that asks us to consider the fact that even the doctors who are treating us are merely fallible human beings who know a lot but are often forced to rely on gut instinct in a crunch which may work to the benefit of the patient but may also work to their detriment. It's a book that reminds the rest of us, as patients, that we have an important role to play in our own healthcare. All this, and it also features the sort of compelling, easy to understand writing that makes Complications almost impossible to put down.
That does sound like an important book, but if it goes into medical details too much, I'm not sure I'd have the stomach for it.ReplyDelete
Yeah, I'm with Kathy and I'm curious to know, does it go into medical details? I love essays but I'm squeamish!ReplyDelete
I can't wait to dig into this one! What a great review, Megan!ReplyDelete
Though I am now a bit weirded out by the fact that you might have seen my gall bladder...of course, at the time my gall bladder and I parted ways, you were likely in middle school. Still, just the thought...
Kathy and Avis - This is where the essay format kind of makes it nice. While some of them do go into more graphic medical detail, many of them don't. At least in my opinion, and I'm not sure how good that is considering, I, uh, work with body parts so it obviously must take a lot to really gross me out. The two that were probably the most in your face with medical unpleasantness were the one about autopsies ("The Final Cut") and, the very last one about the red leg. So, I definitely wouldn't bypass the whole book, if I were you, but I might consider skipping those two. Which is ironic, since both of those actually contain some stuff that I already knew about or am close to because of my job. Ha - my job is gross!ReplyDelete
Debi - Thanks! Hope you love it as much as Eva and I did. And isn't it so weird to think of people looking at your gallbladder who've never met you? I never would have even thought about my department existing until I started working there! LOL!
As a pediatrician, I also loved this book. You might also enjoy his other book, Better. I found that one really challenging as a doctor.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the review - I look at this one every time I see it in the store. I just heard him talking on a podcast about his new book called A Checklist Manifesto about the need to have checklists in the OR. That one sounded interesting too!ReplyDelete
Amiable brief and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignement. Thank you as your information.ReplyDelete
I already have a tendency to distrust doctors and to put off going to the doctor. I think a book like this one would reinforce my natural tendencies and give me more reasons to avoid the world of medicine, not a good thing sometimes.ReplyDelete
Seeing these kind of posts reminds me of just how technology truly is ubiquitous in this day and age, and I think it is safe to say that we have passed the point of no return in our relationship with technology.ReplyDelete
I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Ethical concerns aside... I just hope that as technology further innovates, the possibility of downloading our brains onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's a fantasy that I daydream about every once in a while.
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