Book “Your Medical Mind” By Groopman And Hartzband Is Highly Recommended By FitOldDog

Hi folks,

An interesting book containing valuable ideas.

I was listening to National Public Radio (NPR) the other day, when I heard some comments by Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband that jibed with my point of view when it comes to doctors and the things that they say. The speakers were discussing a book that they had recently published, called ‘Your Your Medical Mind: How To Decide What Is Right For You.‘ It sounded interesting so I downloaded it to my Nook for a reasonable price, and read it from cover to cover within a couple of days. When I was in veterinary school we had a kind of friendly rivalry with the medical students, who never struck me as being particularly brilliant, any more than we were. They are just people. They learn stuff. Then they say and do stuff. That’s it!

I like this quote by Albert Schweitzer that is cited in the book: “Every patient carries her or his own doctor inside.” This thought is paraphrased elsewhere [page 8 of my electronic version] as “Experts everywhere are telling you what to do. Some assert that you need more treatment. Others insist that you need less. How do you know what is right for you. The answer often lies not with the experts, but within you.” As I read the book I realized that the issue is much more complex than this statement suggests. What occurs is markedly influenced by the history of each and every one of the players involved in the drama of sickness and its treatment.

I enjoyed reading the case studies, especially the one that dealt with the issue of whether or not to take a statin for elevated blood cholesterol levels. This story spoke to me personally, as a genetic hyperlipidemic. I actually took a low dose of statins, on a doctor’s advice, for a couple of months. Then everything changed when I saw first hand (I’m a pathologist by training) what statins could do to muscle. I stopped taking them immediately as they are clearly severe muscle toxins. This personal direct experience swayed me more than any research of the literature might. The power of such experiences, and their potential to mislead us, are addressed in some detail in the book in the most interesting and open-minded way.

It became clear as I read that not only the experience of the patient, but that of the doctors, other health care providers, and even family and friends can markedly impact how we handle our health care, and whether we will or will not follow a doctor’s advice. In fact, there is nothing simple about this issue at all, as we are all unique. The ways in which we differ when it comes to medical treatment is nicely described. Some of us want to control or understand every decision that is made by the doctor, whilst others are happy to let him/her take the lead on all aspects of treatment. So there is no such thing as a best doctor or a best treatment. We are individuals and we each need individual treatment approaches.

A considerable portion of the book is taken up with the major medical challenge of end-of-life decision making. This section contained many interesting surprises for me, some of which were enlightening and encouraging, rendering the thought of major health decline less rather than more frightening. The book is well researched, but it is written in a narrative style, for which you do not need a medical background to follow the arguments and examples presented. It addresses the state of conflict that exists between doctors, hospital administrators, drug manufacturers, insurance companies and government agencies and how these forces influence the patient. These authors are clearly patient advocates, but simultaneously they have respect and compassion for the challenges faced by doctors working within the ‘medical machine.’

When it comes to athletes, there is a fascinating case (that could easily be you) of a runner with a foot injury. The whole history of this case is reported, including a description of both the physical and psychological impacts of decisions made by this patient in response to what seemed like undue pressure (to me at least) from a surgeon. She lived to regret her decision to accept a surgical approach that actually failed. This is a sad warning to us all. The message here is that the doctor can advise, cajole, persuade, push, or even make to abdicate responsibility (a form of passive aggressive behavior sometimes, I think), but you get to decide whether to accept or reject the recommendations, and you live with the consequences.

If you want to be better able to choose the right doctor, improve the way that you work with the ones you select through an increased awareness of the hidden psychological issues, and to optimize your chances of a good outcome for your personal health, I strongly recommend that you read this book. You will learn as much about yourself as you will about the medical community, and most importantly it is an enjoyable and thought provoking read.

Finally, the most interesting aspect of the book for me was the statement by the authors that in the act of writing it they were changed as physicians with respect to how they help their patients make decisions.

-k Your Medical Mind


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.