Book Quote:

“Patients are worried. One survey showed that over one third of patients surveyed after visiting an emergency room had concerns about medical errors and by far the greatest concern was the possibility that they had been misdiagnosed. They are right to worry.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky (AUG 31, 2009)

Every Patient Tells a Story, by Dr. Lisa Sanders, an internist and teacher at the Yale University School of Medicine, is a mesmerizing look at the way sick people are treated and mistreated, often with the best of intentions, by their physicians. In her introduction, the author insists that every story she relates, however improbable, is real. The names of the patients and some of the doctors have been changed to protect confidentiality. Sanders is a technical advisor for the hit show, House, in which a brilliant but cranky diagnostician and his staff take about fifty-five minutes (including commercials) to save the patient of the week. Sanders also writes a monthly column about the art of diagnosis for the New York Times Magazine. In Every Patient Tells a Story, Dr. Sanders presents her well-thought out ideas about the obstacles doctors face when they attempt to make difficult diagnoses. In addition, she expresses strong opinions about the ways in which medical students can be trained to do a better job of finding out what’s really wrong with us.

This book is filled with tantalizing mysteries: a twenty-two year old woman is lying in the Intensive Care Unit near death for no apparent reason; a twenty-seven year old woman is brought to the ER by her fiancГ© after her heart starts beating wildly, her blood pressure climbs, and she starts to speak in “random phrases, meaningless sentences, [and] rapid, incoherent paragraphs;” a fifty-two year old former army man is reduced to tears by a recurring high fever, stiff neck, raw throat, and sore joints. In each of these cases, the doctors examine the patient, order a series of tests, and then try to figure out what is wrong. When, in spite of their best efforts, they cannot come up with an explanation, some practitioners turn to their colleagues for help. At times, the solution is so unexpected that even the physicians are stunned.

Sanders is a superb writer whose medical knowledge, storytelling ability, intelligence, and compassion make this book impossible to put down. She cites revealing studies to support her conclusions, and she expresses herself eloquently, using apt metaphors: “The experience of being ill can be like waking up in a foreign country.” It is the doctor’s job to provide “a road map that will help [patients] manage their new surroundings.” What happens, however, when there is no clear path and the medical practitioner is almost as lost as the person who came to him hoping for a cure? The answer is far from simple. Sanders insists that physicians can do a better job of listening to the patient, taking a thorough history, and conducting a proper physical exam. They should take advantage of the amazing technology available to them, while recognizing that even high-tech machines and sophisticated tests may be unhelpful or misleading. If the doctors are stumped even after taking all of these steps, then they should promptly consult an expert. It is crucial that physicians refrain from coming to premature conclusions to explain the inexplicable. Even if an incorrect diagnosis does not lead to the patient’s death, it can subject him to expensive and ineffective treatments and prolong his suffering. Every Patient Tells a Story is a must read for physicians and for anyone who may have to endure a potentially terrifying hospital stay for “medically unexplained symptoms.”

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 34 readers
PUBLISHER: Broadway; 1 edition (August 11, 2009)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
AMAZON PAGE: Every Patient Tells a Story
EXTRAS: The New York Times “Diagnosis” Column

How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman

Better by Atul Gawande

Final Exam by Pauline Chen

Direct Red by Gabriel Weston


August 31, 2009 В· Judi Clark В· No Comments
Tags:  В· Posted in: Non-fiction

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.