WRONGFUL DEATH by Sandra M. Gilbert


A Medical Tragedy
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 A wrenching tale of medical mistakes, death, shock, grief, and frustration, told with love and anger. Noted women's studies scholar Gilbert (English/Univ. of California, Davis; co-author, No Man's Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century, p. 956) relates how her husband Elliot, also an English professor at Davis, underwent surgery for prostate cancer at the university's medical center in 1991 and then inexplicably died hours later in the recovery room. He died from what medical researchers call--in an exquisite bit of professional nomenclature whose euphemistic absurdity Gilbert uses to good effect--an ``adverse event,'' i.e., something caused by human error or carelessness (the exact cause of his death was never definitively determined). The story of Gilbert's attempts to unravel the mystery of what exactly happened to her husband, and of her struggle to put her life back together, is beautifully and movingly told. She begins with the day before her husband's death, moves back in time to his first consultation with the doctor who performed his surgery, and returns again to the day of his death. Although the story then proceeds chronologically, she returns repeatedly to the fateful day, reliving it again and again, as a widow must. Her descriptions of her failure to get straight answers from the hospital and its doctors--and of her sessions with the lawyers who handled the lawsuit she eventually felt compelled to bring--give a human dimension to the controversy about medical malpractice litigation and its costs. Real names appear to have been used throughout. Of special note are the sometimes ironic, sometimes poignant, always pertinent quotes that open each chapter. The sources are varied--medical texts and journals, legal documents, books on grieving, newspaper accounts of medical tragedies--and their use in this personal narrative indicates that Gilbert is in full control of her material. Powerful testimony to the painful truth that worst-case scenarios really do happen.

Pub Date: Feb. 20th, 1995
ISBN: 0-393-03721-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994


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