PLEASE TO READ THIS BOOK! For real, unless you are totally allergic to engaging non-fiction, you need to trawl through this. Because usually someone is a competent writer (for a scientician) or has a good grasp of science (for a lit-nerd) but rarely is someone both a doctor (and a SURGEON which is like the DOCTORIEST of doctors) and a writer with cleverness and skillz.
Because this is part educational text, part memoir, part MEDICAL THRILLER! Gawande loads on the case studies, and every time I’d be flipping through pages breathlessly all Does she have the flesh-eating disease? Can they save her leg? CAN THEY SAVE HER LIFE?!?! Palpitations, y’all.
Right, so the first part is all about the practice of medicine and how it’s totally wrong in parts but not really in the parts that we think it’s wrong. And the second part is all the wack-a-doo stuff, like what the hell is nausea and why do we get it and how can we fix it? Also, does Friday the 13th = more patients in the ER? And then the third bit is on uncertainty in the medical practice and is ridiculously thought provoking.
And Gawande is so honest! And not just about Bad Doctors or the flaws in SCIENCE! but about his own views as a doctor/patient. Like this one time his son had heart problems, and he went to see an experienced cardiologist even though he knows that the young ones need practice and that experienced doctors come from unexperienced doctors and they have to practice on people but this is his son. What I’m saying is, he feels both sides of the coin.
And near the end Gawande brings up the Ever Controversial topic of patient autonomy, which takes serious balls. Because as a backlash to years and years of paternalistic doctoring, it’s pretty well stomping on the flag to suggest that doctors should make decisions in the patient’s best interests, especially if those decisions go against the patient’s wishes. I mean, it’s eight kinds of taboo right now for doctors to even suggest to patients what they think should be done, because that’s seen as coercing.
And I cannot tell you how much I have appreciated being coerced in the past half-year, even when it took some coercing to get the doctors to coerce me. Because on the one hand, of course I want to make decisions regarding my health, but on the other hand, THESE ARE HUGE DECISIONS! And what if I choose wrong? All of my doctors have been great about telling me what they would do if they were me, but I always have to ask pretty hard.
So! Read for interest’s sake, read because you will get sick eventually, read because it is damned good reading.