Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Complications A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande

Dr. Gawande presents an unvarnished account of doctors learning and practicing medicine in this relatively short book ( 252 pages in paperback). He hits on many topics but arranges them into three broad categories; fallibility, mystery, and uncertainty.  We all want our surgeons to be infallible, understand everything they are dealing with and certain of their diagnosis and technique. In chapter after lucid and compelling chapter, we understand how doctors learn yet can never fully understand the workings of the body and how they decline with age or condition. Each chapter is a true story of a medical situation and some of them, especially the ones about what we don't understand about how the body works, go beyond interesting to fascinating. 
Given our society's litigious culture when it comes to poor outcomes in medicine, this is a most unexpected book from any medical doctor, let alone a practicing surgeon.  We know medical procedures can be less than perfect and yet it is seldom discussed in other than adversarial language. All of us interact with doctors over time and should view them rationally, yet part of the doctor's ability to heal rests with our faith in expecting a positive outcome from whatever it is they do.  I'm in a book club of retirees, and some have had serious health issues over the years.  I thought I'd recommend this book as one of our monthly selections, then changed my mind.  Not because it's not very good (it is quite good) but because it may be a little too good when discussing a topic most of us would just as soon not think about too much.  Having said that, I'd still recommend it to everyone.  You will still trust your doctor, you'll just do it with eyes more open.

No comments: