HONEST MEDICINE by Donald J. Murphy


Shattering the Myths About Aging and Health Care
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 One geriatrician's prescription for the elderly: a healthy dose of skepticism to be applied liberally to medical news stories and doctors' recommendations for tests and medications. Murphy, medical director of the Senior Citizens Health Center at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver, opens with a brief lesson in statistics to help laypeople interpret risk reduction claims and understand the difference between the statistical and the clinical significance of research findings. He then looks at routine office visits, including annual checkups, and various diagnostic tests, describing each in some detail and giving his assessment of its risks and benefits, who needs it and who probably doesn't. His advice: If you don't have new symptoms, you probably don't need to bother with annual checkups and many tests. He then considers the benefits versus the burdens of various measures aimed at reducing the risk of heart attack, osteoporosis, hypertension, arrhythmias, and diabetes, and of those aimed at providing symptomatic relief for angina and congestive heart failure, osteoarthritis, urinary incontinence, and dementia. Murphy tries to cover so many different conditions and situations that anyone looking for specific guidance may well be disappointed. His advice is sometimes forthright (e.g., forget fluoride for osteoporosis), but too often it is so hedged with buts, howevers, and maybes as to be more confusing than helpful. In view of his willingness to accept that advances in medical research alter doctors' recommendations, his light mockery of changing dietary recommendations seems unjustified. Not the most user-friendly of guidebooks, but nevertheless valuable for its basic message: Be skeptical about the amount of medical attention you really need, and develop a relationship with your doctor based on mutual honesty. (First printing of 35,000; $50,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-87113-587-6
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995