Book Review: Better by Atul Gawande

Author: Atul Gawande
Title: Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance
Publication Info: BBC Audiobooks America
ISBN: 9780792747260


This book is a collection of essays about the need for excellence in medicine because the cost of even a small error may be fatal.  In the conclusion, Gawande makes suggestion on how the standards for being better can be applied to any field of endeavor.

Topics covered in the essays in this book include:

  • The spread of infection in hospitals that should be preventable but habits of medical staff are difficult to change.
  • The people skills required to stop the spread of disease in India.
  • A review of the current state of malpractice law that offers a good balance between the surgeon’s fears and the rights of the patient.
  • Amazing stories of doctors in India who regularly perform procedures outside their specialty and with limited resources but are as effective in healing patients as doctors in the US.
  • The conundrum of whether doctors should participate in executions to help make them more humane or should completely eschew any practice that leads to a death.

This book was selected by my book club and I was pleasantly surprised that it was better (ha-ha!) than I expected.  Gawande writes in a direct – sometimes arrogant – manner but at the end one can’t help but agree that he is on to something.  As an added bonus, he practices in Boston, so I know where to go if I’m looking for a good surgeon.

Rating: ***

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