Two new books take up patient safety and quality of care issues from opposite perspectives, one a physician’s, the other a patient’s, and both have compelling lessons.
Lisa Sanders, MD is the New York Times Magazine “Diagnosis” columnist. Her book, “Every Patient Tells a Story — Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis,” starts with puzzles of sick patients and unknown diagnoses. We all love a good mystery, but this book is much more than a compelling mystery yarn. Through deftly told true stories, Lisa Sanders shows how correct medical diagnosis requires a combination of skills and right attitudes. As the book’s title implies, careful listening to the patient comes first. A good physical exam is critical, and the worrisome part of the book is how this old-fashioned art is increasingly neglected in medical schools. Luck has a role too — or maybe it’s humility — as the author gives several cases where happenstance seems to have helped find the correct diagnosis from a medical bystander, but that requires the ability to admit you don’t have all the answers and to reach out for help. But perhaps most important: the empathy to persist toward the answer and the quiet time to contemplate the entire patient. This book will help young physicians do better and will help patients find the right doctors who will care about them.
Sorrel King is a Baltimore mother who lost her infant daughter in a medical catastrophe at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Her new book is “Josie’s Story: A Mother’s Inspiring Crusade to Make Medical Care Safe.” Sorrel King has already saved many lives with her tireless work to urge hospitals to listen carefully to what parents say about their sick children. It takes a special person to turn tragedy into something positive. I featured Sorrel and several other brave survivors of medical errors in my book: The Life You Save: Nine Steps to Finding the Best Medical Care — and Avoiding the Worst. It’s wonderful to see her now tell the full story of her daughter Josie and her inspiring crusade. I hope everyone can read this book and absorb its lessons.