Friday, January 18, 2013

Book review: Complications by Atul Gawande

Would you let a young inexperienced surgeon operate on your child or yourself, even if it involved a greater risk of complications, so that they could become better surgeons? Almost everyone would answer no to this question and indeed when the authors own son experienced a complication, he insisted on an experienced surgeon. Despite this it is an unavoidable fact that surgeon need practice and if they are not allowed to practice there will be no good surgeons in the future.

The reader of this book will receive an insight into the dilemmas faced by surgeons. It is a book that acknowledges the fantastic benefits of surgery while simultaneously acknowledging the fact that doctors are merely human beings and that even with the best of intentions mistakes are frequently made.

Some questions discussed (without aspiring to provide a definite solution):
  • How can you provide young surgeons with practice opportunities without compromising the care of patients (and on how many animals do you let them practice before allowing them to operate on humans)? 
  • How much should you trust a doctors “intuition” - and how does it compare to neural networks and machine algorithms? 
  • How should you deal with bad doctors - doctors who compromise the care of their patients because they have a depression, are stressed out or have a drinking problem (again doctors are just human beings and are affected by such things too)? 
Gawande takes on these and other questions. He is consistently honest about the limitations as well as the benefits that surgery involves and it seems that he does not hide unpleasant truths. All in all, Complications is a good intriguing book which I would recommend to anyone interested in surgery or medicine in general.

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