Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We're only human (including doctors)

Book: Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science
Author: Atul Gawande
Published: 2002 (Picador)
Pages: 252

This is a well-written collection of anecdotes that shows just how mysterious working on the human body is. Dr. Gawande divides his exploration of his profession’s failures into sections on human errors, weird coincidences, and things medicine doesn’t have an answer for, but everything overlapped and can’t be neatly divided and so the whole book ran a fluid spectrum of why going to the hospital is scary.

But not, he never explicitly expresses but lets the circumstances he describes say for themselves (hear that, fellow writers? It works!), any more dangerous than all the other everyday experiences we put ourselves in. Life is mysterious, and the only way we’re going to make things better and get more answers is to let curious, compassionate people like him poke around at it for awhile and fail and make things worse for a few people before stumbling on the thing that makes things better for everyone else afterwards.

Good details about procedures and how/why (if it’s known) they work, just enough to picture exactly (too exactly…) what he’s doing but not too much med talk to feel like a textbook at any point. He must have a really good bedside manner with people he has to tell complicated stuff to.  

Brave new world, eh? Bookshelf. 

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