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Publisher's Summary

Sometimes in medicine the only way to know what is truly going on in a patient is to operate, to look inside with one's own eyes. This book is exploratory surgery on medicine itself, laying bare a science not in its idealized form but as it actually is - complicated, perplexing, and profoundly human.

Atul Gawande offers an unflinching view from the scalpel's edge, where science is ambiguous, information is limited, the stakes are high, yet decisions must be made. In dramatic and revealing stories of patients and doctors, he explores how deadly mistakes occur, why good surgeons go bad. He shows what happens when medicine comes up against the inexplicable: an architect with incapacitating back pain for which there is no physical cause; a young woman with nausea that won't go away; a television newscaster whose blushing is so severe that she cannot do her job. Gawande also ponders the human factor that makes saving lives possible.

At once tough-minded and humane, Complications is a new kind of medical writing, nuanced and lucid, unafraid to confront the conflicts and uncertainties that lie at the heart of modern medicine, yet always alive to the possibilities of wisdom in this extraordinary endeavor.

©2002 Atul Gawande (P)2003 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC

Critic Reviews

"Gawande's sharp eye, crisp prose, and insightful understanding make his book as enjoyable as it is edifying." (Los Angeles Times ) "Diagnosis: riveting." (Time) "These exquisitely crafted essays, in which medical subjects segue into explorations of much larger themes, place Gawande among the best in the field." (Publishers Weekly)

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Average Customer Ratings

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Loved it.

Great book; it helped me become more familiar with the realities of being a surgeon. It is Definitely worth reading.

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Interesting

Any additional comments?

An interesting perspective on how we are all human, and the sort of subjective factors that impact surgeons and doctors on a daily basis. This was a very quick listen for me. I found it well written, peppered with humor as well as touching human perspective. I recommend it to those working in the medical profession as well as anyone interested in gaining some insight on the challenges that physicians face on a regular basis. While nobody likes to be the patient that ends up the one the doctor makes a bad judgment call on, it is inevitable, there is no perfect human being and nobody performs without error in ANY profession. The pressure is high and medicine is very tricky, and I feel books like this one help warm people's hearts and break down their ignorance. Perhaps it can help reduce the knee jerk reactions of those who are quick to judge doctors harshly or immediately want to sue over medical errors or judgment calls made in tense, critical moments of life and death.

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An unflinching look at the fallibility of medicine

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Yes. This book humanizes doctors and demystifies medicine, revealing its errors without provoking fear. Maybe it's paradoxical, but calling into question medicine's perfectibility is actually kind of empowering because it means we can't let doctors bear all the responsibility for a well-functioning health care system -- we have to look at the whole ecosystem of hospitals and managed care to understand why things go wrong, and then take part in improving the situation. Gawande densely layers interesting anecdotes and interweaves medical marvels with ordinary human experiences -- particularly those of patients. Despite being nominally autobiographical, this isn't a compendium of war stories. Gawande is balanced, self-aware and, surprisingly for someone so successful in the mainstream, not self-aggrandizing. He only involves himself to the extent necessary to round out the anecdotes.

The book loses focus towards the end and does start to feel a little like an anthology of stories and/or essays, and I'm not sure the overall thesis is well sustained, but so far it's the best thing I've read on the practice of modern medicine.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Complications?

His account of the congress of American surgeons was funny and poignant. He clearly has a goofy sense of humour and an anthropologist's eye for professional culture -- the good and the bad. This was one of the moments that did the most for me in humanizing surgeons without making them look foolish or, worse, inept.

Would you listen to another book narrated by William David Griffith?

His narration was pretty good. He mispronounces stuff from time to time which can be a little distracting, but overall he was pleasant enough to listen to.

Could you see Complications being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Not really. There's no storyline or protagonist, and it jumps around in time a lot.

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  • Sally
  • Cupertino, CA, United States
  • 04-21-13

I couldn't stop listening!

This is a fabulous book for anyone with an interest in medicine. I greatly admire Dr. Gawande's candor in providing this fascinating, behind the scenes account of doctors and patients. I listen to books when I drive and there were a number of evenings when I just sat in my driveway because I couldn't put this book down.

My only criticism is not about the story but the Audible.com use of random music throughout. There is annoying piano music at various places - not apparently tied to new topic areas or chapters. I found it distracting and irritating.

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  • christy
  • Plano, TX, United States
  • 03-12-13

Amazing!

It provided a whole different perspective to the idea of a Dr. They are just a working stiff like the rest of us and they can screw up. And they can succeed at amazing things. Interesting take and the stories were great.

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  • nancy
  • Redlands, CA, United States
  • 07-03-12

Being a doctor is hardly a clear path to healing.

What made the experience of listening to Complications the most enjoyable?

Dr. Gawande shares personal stories while weaving in details about medicine that are gripping.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

Make it longer! I was shocked when it ended so soon.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

A surgeon's notes on an imperfect sceince.

Any additional comments?

Really some interesting and revealing stories as well as information. I have discussed this book several times since I listened to it.

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Good reflections, thoughtful

Would you consider the audio edition of Complications to be better than the print version?

Haven't read print version.

Any additional comments?

This was a thoughtful book about risk, patient choice, and the practice of medicine. I found both the first and last 3rds of the book very good, while there was a section in the middle that was less interesting for me. Overall a v. good listen.

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This book helps understand how surgeons are people

I enjoyed this book very much. It gave me an insight into the world of medicine - was well written and read. I've recommended the book to several friends, which I don't do as a rule.

If you have an interest in understanding how doctors think and work - this is a very good book.

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  • Micah
  • College Station, TX, United States
  • 11-09-11

Intriguing

A very insightful view from the perspective of a surgeon. The real-life stories were interesting, and he makes some good points about inherent problems in the medical field.

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  • Lisalynn
  • Concord, MA, United States
  • 01-10-11

Why Abridged?

LOVED this book- the writing, the narration, everything except the fact that it was abridged.
Arrgh! Why? As an audio reader, I want the whole thing. The whole, entire book, please!