MORPHINE, ICE CREAM, TEARS: Tales of a City Hospital by

MORPHINE, ICE CREAM, TEARS: Tales of a City Hospital

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A raucously indignant chronicle of Sacco's intern year at an anonymous Manhattan hospital. Sacco's pen bleeds outrage from the go, a graphic account of his routine--i.e., brutal and invasive--treatment of a pneumonic patient even as Sacco is staggering from the ""slavery"" of a 120-hour workweek. The two themes embedded in this disturbing scene--that most docs and hospitals treat patients like sick meat; that most are motivated by money, not caring--run like twin currents through this high-voltage account. In fact, Sacco confesses, ""to the exhausted and beaten young doc, death is often a favored outcome. . .there will be one less patient to care for on returning the next day."" Sacco backs up his indictment with plenty of anecdotal evidence--of the rich patient who gets special care; of operating-room incompetence--and digs at the ""high-powered specialists who tool around in Mercedeses and Jags, charging $250 for a fifteen-minute office visit."" And he directs his baleful gaze at patients as well, especially smokers and boozers (""lemmings""), and addicts, portrayed via several gruesome tales including one about an angel-duster who razored off his facial features--and was rushed to ""the plastic and head and neck surgeons [who] pissed in their pants with excitement."" Fortunately, all this righteous ire--which goes on to take a hard sideswipe at chemotherapy, and at AIDS paranoia among docs--is cushioned not only by the hearty storytelling, but also by Sacco's divulgence of much arcane medical lore (e.g., that death certificates must be filled out in black ink only). Scathing, crude, and very frightening: kind of a bad-boy counterpart to A Not. Entirely Benign Procedure, Perri Klass' more refined and nearly as condemnatory 1987 account of hospital life.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1989
Publisher: Morrow