A galvanizing book full of shocking truths about the current state of health care.

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UNACCOUNTABLE

WHAT HOSPITALS WON'T TELL YOU AND HOW TRANSPARENCY CAN REVOLUTIONIZE HEALTH CARE

A searing insider's look at what really goes on behind the scenes at major hospitals and how implementing simple steps toward transparency can empower patients and dramatically improve the culture and safety of health care.

Makary, a cancer surgeon and professor of health policy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, states in no uncertain terms that medical errors are a nationwide problem affecting thousands of unwitting patients. Often, hospital management operates on corporate models, pursuing profit over quality, resulting in overprescribed procedures and rushed or sloppy surgeries. Despite efforts to make medical care safer, a quarter of all patients in America are harmed by medical mistakes, a statistic that persists largely due to the "code of silence" that exists among doctors. The author argues that transparency, both within hospital personnel and between hospitals and the public, has the potential to radically decrease instances of preventable errors and to eliminate incompetent doctors. For example, making doctor's notes part of a shareable database of medical records increases accountability and allows patients to make more informed decisions about their health. Similarly, requiring hospitals to tally and share mortality rates for standard surgeries leads to quick improvements in practices. When a hospital's reputation is on the line, and potential patient dollars are at stake, the impetus to improve becomes significant. When New York state tried this tactic using heart-surgery death rates, the result was "big, broad improvements in mortality, statewide. With each passing year of public reporting, the state’s average death rate went down.” Providing an abundance of hospital-reported data alongside eye-opening anecdotes, Makary gives practical tips on how to navigate the system and receive quality care. However, he insists that without dramatic—though easily implemented—changes, little will improve.

A galvanizing book full of shocking truths about the current state of health care.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60819-836-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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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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