Hatch ably reveals the shortcomings of medicine but is less successful in providing guidance for those trying to find their...

READ REVIEW

SNOWBALL IN A BLIZZARD

A PHYSICIAN'S NOTES ON UNCERTAINTY IN MEDICINE

An exploration of the uncertainty that lies at the heart of Western medicine.

Hatch (Medicine/Univ. of Massachusetts Medical School), an infectious disease specialist, seeks to help patients understand the consequences of this uncertainty. He presents a spectrum of uncertainty, ranging from strong evidence supporting a high confidence of benefit through pure speculation all the way to strong evidence supporting a high confidence of harm. His focus is the middle of the spectrum, the known unknowns, where much of medicine functions. The opening chapters deal with uncertainty in diagnosis, which takes the author into a discussion of the debate over screening for prostate cancers and breast cancers—reading a mammogram can be as tricky as looking for a snowball in a blizzard. In the next section, Hatch considers uncertainty in treatment, including controversies over how to treat hypertension and Lyme disease. The author also examines uncertainty in drug trials, how the media deal with uncertainty in their reporting, and how patients can best use their knowledge of these uncertainties. In writing, Hatch strives to find “that sweet spot where readability and scholarliness overlap.” Generally, he succeeds, telling stories that clarify the points he’s making, and he even includes a highly personal anecdote that shows him struggling to deal with doctors who were sure they knew the right treatment for his elderly, hospitalized father. The illustrations, however, often seem to have been lifted straight from academic papers and add little to the text. A challenging appendix on the concept of statistical significance provides more information on the subject for curious readers. For doctors, Hatch’s message is that it is acceptable to say, “I don’t know.” For patients, he suggests asking lots of questions and remembering that your doctor should be your guide, not your director.

Hatch ably reveals the shortcomings of medicine but is less successful in providing guidance for those trying to find their ways through the confusion.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-465-05064-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more