Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Good Doctor


With Complications, Boston-based surgeon and New Yorker writer Atul Gawande joined the ranks of Doctors Who Can Write. (Speaking of which, whatever happened to Abraham Verghese?)

In his next work, Better, Gawande continues his Montaigne-like ruminations on his profession. The essays here are centred on the theme of improving medical performance, and the book is structured around the three ways to do this: diligence, doing right and ingenuity.

In prose that’s limpid and affecting, Gawande walks us through subjects close to his heart, from the importance of hand-washing to medical malpractice lawsuits to doctors’ earnings. As before, his accounts of the patients and medical practitioners he’s encountered are riveting. Especially interesting are essays on how the C-section is becoming the norm for childbirth, on treatments for cystic fibrosis and on his visits to India, where he finds surgeons getting the better of trying conditions.

You don’t have to be a doctor to take his conclusion to heart: "[Performing] better is possible. It does not take genius. It takes diligence. It takes moral clarity. It takes ingenuity. And above all it takes a willingness to try.”

Worth your while? Definitely, even if accounts of illnesses appearing out of the blue cause acute hypochondria.

No comments: