DEADLY CHOICES by Jeffrey E. Harris


Coping with Health Risks in Everyday Life
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 An uneven but good-humored attempt to lighten the task of making health decisions. Harris (Economics/MIT; Medicine/Harvard Medical School) focuses on six issues: heterosexual behavior and AIDS; exercise; weight control; cholesterol; smoking; and breast cancer. His stated aim isn't simply to impart information--although there's plenty of that here--but to encourage a way of thinking, an approach to decision-making. While noting that the risks of everyday living aren't entirely under one's own control (both genetics and luck play a part), he urges confronting choices boldly, reducing risks intelligently, and being persistent. Harris presents six minidramas, some serious, some comic, in which characters face decisions affecting their health: Will Dinah have unprotected sex with Caleb? Will Steve stay in his aerobics class? Will Eve enroll in a weight-loss program? What will Gideon order for lunch? How can Andrew quit smoking? Will Ruth have a preventive mastectomy? The characters are fictitious, but the author, who also practices medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, bases their concerns on his experience with thousands of patients. He examines their circumstances and analyzes their choices, wise and otherwise. It's clear that collecting information is the first step in making a wise health decision, but less clear is just how one determines what to do-- or not to do--in the face of confusing messages from the media, advertisers, public-health officials, and the scientific establishment. Although he falls short of his objective of teaching an overall approach, the information Harris imparts about the specific issues he raises will facilitate decision- making in those areas. Altogether, much useful advice about handling some of life's major health risks.

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 1993
ISBN: 0-465-02889-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1993