It was inevitable that Better and
How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman would be widely compared by reviewers
when they published in hardcover just weeks apart last year. While both share a
similar premise, that the performance of physicians is less than
perfect and can be improved by close scrutiny, the scope of
Better is wider, from a medical, geographical and ethical
point of view which, in this reader's opinion, makes it the
more interesting book.
Following on from his 2002 collection of essays, Complications, Gawande's latest book consists of 12 essays, some original and some previously published, in which he whisks the reader around the world from medical facilities on the cutting edge of science to doctors performing miracles with the barest of supplies. Five of the previously published essays are available to read in full online (see sidebar) and the Introduction is reproduced in full at BookBrowse.
While Better explores a number of practical ways in which doctors can improve the survival rate of their patients, such as the hospital that reduced the number of patients infected by MRSA* from a national average of 10%+ to zero, it is Gawande's focus on ethical dilemmas and his strategies for improving medical success rates that make for the most interesting reading, not least because much of what he has to say can be applied to fields other than medicine.
Better offers inspiration to any of us who are tempted to settle for average. If you're looking for an inspiring graduate gift this year, instead of falling for the tired old retreads that publishers target specifically at the graduate market, consider giving Better!
*MRSA is a particularly virulent bacteria resistant to most antibiotics.
Essays from The New Yorker that are reprinted in Better
Essays from the New England Journal of Medicine that are reprinted in Better
This review was originally published in April 2007, and has been updated for the February 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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