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What You Don't Know Can Kill You
A Physician's Radical Guide to Conquering the Obstacles to Excellent Medical Care

by Laura W. Nathanson

      Dr. Nathanson's husband was diagnosed with a deadly, but treatable, form of cancer that tragically took his life. And much of the tragedy rests in the fact that his tumor went undiagnosed for nearly a year, despite several evaluations by physicians. As a result, she has written a book for the patient designed to help people get actively involved in their own healthcare and take a role in preventing the sorts of medical errors that undoubtedly played a role in her husbandís death.

She educates the reader on how to navigate their medical records. She teaches how to spot certain terms that could represent problems in their care, how to determine if their physician is certain of a diagnosis and if the "scary things" have been effectively ruled out, and how to know when they are being cared for by medical students, residents or fully qualified physicians. She encourages and instructs people to comb through their records and push aside the nearly 90% of impertinent material to find the things that play a key role in their health status. She has devised a method that any person, with or without prior medical knowledge, could use.

What Dr. Nathanson has done is made it clear to people that mistakes happen in medicine, and the diligent patient or family member can do their part to help minimize these mistakes. As a physician, I see this as a good thing. Any physician who feels threatened by Dr. Nathanson's efforts should seriously re-evaluate his ego. The patient is central in medicine and should always be, so any instrument that minimizes or potentially minimizes harmful outcomes for the patient is an instrument that should be welcomed in the medical community. Unfortunately, such instruments in the past have often been brought about by government bureaucracies that do nothing but add more paperwork and headache for healthcare workers while doing little for the patients themselves. This is not the case with Dr. Nathanson's book, and is thus a refreshing concept. I agree with her notion that patients can have a profound impact on their own care if they take an active role in that care, and I salute her for putting this book out. My only concern would be that even though her message is clear to me, some may interpret her words to mean "donít trust your doctor." I certainly hope this will not be the case as it can be very detrimental to the doctor-patient relationship, and I would caution readers to avoid slipping into this way of thinking. With that said, all in all this book is well-done and can potentially have a lasting impact in the medical world.

The Book

May 8, 2007
0061145823 / 978-0061145827
Health / Mind / Body
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The Reviewer

John Washburn
Reviewed 2007
NOTE: Reviewer John Washburn is the author of When Evil Prospers.
© 2006