entertaining, often scandalous portraits of doctors at work.



A collection of eight case studies revolving around questions of diagnosis and treatment, by Harvard physician and New Yorker writer Groopman (The Measure of Our Days, 1997).

Most doctors, if they write at all, write mainly about disease and cannot resist certain subjects. Groopman covers them all in eight chapters and a prologue, and they are cracking good stories. In the traditional when-I-got-sick essay, a patient’s insistence that physicians cure his slipped disk converts it to a permanent disability. A second story in this genre describes the nightmarish odyssey of Groopman, his wife, and their sick son as they search for a competent doctor over the course of a holiday weekend. The author encounters many tragedies along with a few triumphs. A woman dies of leukemia (misdiagnosed by her HMO) and, after failing to save her life, Groopman must defend himself against a frustrating malpractice suit. He discovers a rare but curable blood disease in a friend's father; unfortunately, local physicians have diagnosed it as a common, incurable condition. They resent his interference, and the patient declines to question their judgment. A young woman asks to be tested for the breast-cancer gene and discovers she has it. Can she prevent the inevitable by having her breasts removed? Groopman discusses the pros and cons, but the woman springs a surprise. Inevitably, literary doctors write of a personal encounter with aging: Groopman's grandfather descends into Alzheimer's, a sad tale of a beloved man growing repulsive and burdensome. Wisely, Groopman rarely addresses larger issues: he expresses admiration for the busy family physician, although those in his book are mostly blunderers; he denounces HMOs that deal with skyrocketing costs by cutting benefits, but he offers no alternative plan of action. His focus is more specific than general. Not profound literature, yet undeniably fascinating: Groopman has a good ear and a dramatic flair, and he delivers

entertaining, often scandalous portraits of doctors at work.

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-670-88801-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2000

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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Useful but disappointingly commonplace tips.


In a follow-up to The End of Illness (2012), which explored how technological advances will transform medicine, Agus (Medicine and Engineering/Univ. of Southern California) restates time-tested but too often overlooked principles for healthy living.

The author outlines simple measures that average citizens can take to live healthier lives and extend their life spans by taking advantage of modern technology to develop personalized records. These would include a list of medical tests and recommended treatments. Agus also suggests keeping track of indicators that can be observed at home on a regular basis—e.g., changes in energy, weight, appetite and blood pressure, blood sugar and general appearance. He advises that all of this information be made available online, and it is also helpful to investigate family history and consider DNA testing where indicated. Along with maintaining a healthy weight, Agus emphasizes the importance of eating a balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and a minimum of red meat. Avoid packaged vitamins and food supplements, and if possible, grow your own vegetables or buy frozen vegetables, which will generally be fresher than those on supermarket shelves. The author also warns against processed foods that make health claims but contain additives or excessive amounts of sugar or fat. Regular mealtimes and plenty of sleep, frequent hand-washing and oral hygiene are a must; smoking and excessive time in the sun should also be avoided. Agus recommends that adults should consider taking statins and baby aspirin as preventative measures. He concludes with a decade-by-decade checklist of annual medical examinations that should be routine—e.g. blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol screenings, from one’s 20s on; colonoscopies, prostate exams and mammograms later—and a variety of top-10 lists (for example, “Top 10 Reasons to Take a Walk”).

Useful but disappointingly commonplace tips.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-3095-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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