When medicine doesn’t work….it’s complicated

Complications by Atul Gawande


Atul Gawande

Picador.  2003.  269 pgs.

I’ve pretty much decided that I would read a telephone directory if this man wrote it.  I didn’t think there could be a, well, better book than his previous work, Better, but I think this tops it.  Complications is about the imperfections in medicine — the unexplained mysteries, the screw ups and the inconsistencies in decision-making.  Reading this book is almost like being faced with a terrifying medical decision for a loved one, but while you face it Gawande has his hand on your shoulder.  His compassion and wonder at what we don’t understand about the human condition — both of patients and of doctors —  is on full view — but in such a way that you feel hopeful and brave.  The chapters about morbidly obese patients, and also the one about doctors who have “gone wrong” are written with respect and almost tenderness that is as touching as it is illuminating and clear-eyed.