Compelling portrait of a deeply troubled system.

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THE UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICA’S HEALTH CARE CRISIS--AND THE PEOPLE WHO PAY THE PRICE

Stories of people who have run afoul of the US health care system illustrate some of its serious flaws.

New Republic senior editor Cohn, an advocate of universal health care, says the time has come for a serious debate about health-care reform in this country. He not only highlights current problems here, he also provides a history of health insurance in this country and the political thinking and social forces that have helped to shape it. He opens with the death of a Boston woman whose ambulance is diverted because of emergency-room overcrowding, which, sadly, is not uncommon. Cohn then takes the reader to Gilbertsville, N.Y., where Betsy Rotzler, who has cancer, foregoes medical care because her husband’s health insurance vanished along with his job. In Deltona, Fla., self-employed Janice Ramsey cannot find a health-insurance plan that will accept her because she has diabetes. The Hilsabecks of Austin, Tex., are denied physical therapy for their handicapped son by their HMO. In Sioux Falls, S.D., Lester Sampson cannot get needed medications for his wife because he lost his health insurance when the meatpacking company at which he’d worked for more than 30 years canceled employees’ retirement health benefits. The story of the Maldonados in Lawrence County, Tenn., shows what cutbacks in Medicaid do to a family with serious health problems and very limited resources. Cohn examines the financial problems facing nonprofit hospitals and how they cope with them through the story of a former nun without insurance who is sued by a Catholic charity hospital in Chicago. He demonstrates the critical state of large public hospitals serving the urban poor via Jose Montenegro’s experiences at County–USC in Los Angeles. A final chapter portrays Denver’s Doren family, sinking into debt because of restrictions on mental-health benefits.

Compelling portrait of a deeply troubled system.

Pub Date: April 10, 2007

ISBN: 0-06-058045-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007

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

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

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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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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