Better – Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande is a practising surgeon in one of the hospitals in the US. His parents are both doctors. His debut book, Complications, was well received for his honest insight into the medical world. His second book, Better, carries the same theme. Gawande gives us glimpses of the troubles, dilemmas, difficulties that professionals in the medical world face.

The first chapter talks about the habit of washing hands after you examine a patient. This sounds so trivial to us, but the chapter gives us a frightening picture of the consequences if a doctor does not follow this practice.

He takes us to the delivery rooms in a Boston hospital and he tackles the age old question of Caesarean section v/s natural birth. I have been reading a lot about this recently and Gawande’s notes help in alleviatng some of the fears I have had. The best part about this chapter is Gawande does not take any stand. He gives us an unbiased analysis of advantages, disadvantages and complications involved in C-section and natural birth. He also presents various situations where the doctors chose either of the two. He leaves the readers with these facts and lets them think for themselves whether doctors are right in performing C-sections in certain cases. All those women who argue over natural birth and C-section on all pregnancy forums should read this chapter.

Another chapter I liked is the one on malpractice suits. Doctors are humans after all and are prone to make errors. Why does this profession suffer so much from malpractice suits? Again, Gawande, as a doctor, does not justify these errors, nor does he take the layman’s stand. I wonder how a person can be so unbiased about such a subject! It takes a lot of courage (more so for a doctor) to admit mistakes and Gawande has lots of that. If only we all can learn from him and admit our mistakes, professional or otherwise.

Gawande touches upon many subjects. Be it about the polio outbreak in India or doctors who assist in execution of criminals on death penalty, there is an introspective touch to every chapter. He looks inside himself and the medical world in order to find ways to better himself and the medical profession in order to to give better to patients worldwide. There could not have been a <i>better</i> title for this book.

Gawande’s books are based in the medical world, but we can apply his principles and teachings to any other field and that is what I like the most about his books. The book makes you pause and think if we are doing the right thing. Are we, in our professions and in our personal lives, doing our best? Is there some scope for improvement? How can we be better?

If you have even a slight interest in the medical field, then this book will interest you. Even if you don’t, read it for the things that you can take home from the book.
I found two typographical errors in the book:
Page 23, 2nd paragraph. flight should be fight.
Page 187, 2nd paragraph. would should be world.


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