Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande

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Let’s play the “who wants to be horrified” game. Complications made it hard to sleep. Not because of gore necessarily but because it made clear to me that doctors are just people who were given a scalpel. Yes, they have a ton of education but at some point, they must get experience.

In one section Gawande discusses a procedure in which he must put in a central line which goes into a major vein in your chest which can technically kill you. All he tells the patient is that he must put in a central line, not that it is dangerous or that it is his first time doing this procedure. I completely understand why he didn’t tell the patient, but that doesn’t make it any less terrifying. I have thought about how doctors have to start at some point, but it was never so clear to me that there is a first patient for every procedure for every doctor. For every surgeon, there will be the first surgery. There is a first time for cutting into the flesh of a still-living person.

It was published in 2002 so I’m sure some things have changed, but it’s still current enough about how the training takes place.

It’s an important realization of how much control doctors have over our bodies and how little they have over everything else in the hospital. They don’t get to choose their patients or dictate the cost of everything. **random opinion time**I personally don’t think doctors should be millionaires. I think they should be paid more than the average person certainly, but in England, doctors are wealthy without being paid insane amounts of money. I also believe there should be a cap on how much a person can sue a doctor for. No person should be able to care for themselves, their children, and their grandchildren because of the mistake of one doctor. There needs to be a cap on how much a person can be expected to receive because of a malpractice suit. If my doctor makes a mistake I’ve told my husband he doesn’t get to hurt him. He cannot sue this person. The only thing he can ask for is that the cost of the procedure be waived. However, if my surgeon was doing something that caused this (drinking on the job, drug addiction, ignoring warning signs, etc.) then he has full right to go after the doctor legally. **end of opinion**

I especially enjoyed hearing about the conference Gawande went to where he and other doctors were given the chance to discuss new and developing procedures that allow for less invasive, healthier, surgeries. Some of the latest technology is astounding. And the conference sounds like a great recharge for people who have to spend their time with surgeries and deathly consequences weighing on them. Gawande mentions that at times being a surgeon can be a little lonely because people tend to be a little afraid of you.

This book has so much heart. You can tell Gawande not only loves his job but also cares about his patients. He writes of times when he has called a patient years after a procedure just to see how they’re doing. I will absolutely be reading more of his books. He wrote a “sequel” to this one called Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance and he wrote one titled Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End that I already have on hold at the library. He is easily one of the most successful people I can imagine, at least professionally–I have no clue about his personal life–because the man is a friggin’ surgeon and an author of multiple books. Epic.

Complications is a very thought-provoking book that allows the average person to take a look into doctors and how they learn their trade. If you don’t read it for the interesting medical aspect, read it for the care shown by this surgeon.

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