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Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science [Paperback]

Atul Gawande
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 Mar 2008
This is a stunningly well-written account of the life of a surgeon: what it is like to cut into people's bodies and the terrifying - literally life and death - decisions that have to be made.There are accounts of operations that go wrong; of doctors who go to the bad; why autopsies are necessary; what it feels like to insert your knife into someone.

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Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science + Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance + The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books; 2 edition (27 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846681324
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846681325
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 28,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Gently dismantling the myth of medical infallibility, Dr Atul Gawande's Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science is essential reading for anyone involved in medicine--on either end of the stethoscope. Medical professionals make mistakes, learn on the job and improvise much of their technique and self-confidence. Gawande's tales are humane and passionate reminders that doctors are people, too. His prose is thoughtful and deeply engaging, shifting from sometimes-painful stories of suffering patients (including his own child) to intriguing suggestions for improving medicine with the same care he expresses in the surgical theatre. Some of his ideas will make health-care providers nervous or even angry, but his disarming style, confessional tone and thoughtful arguments should win over most readers. Complications is a book with heart and an excellent bedside manner, celebrating rather than berating doctors for being merely human. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"'Gawande draws you in with the story but leaves you wiser about science, about health, and even about the human condition.' Michael Kinsley 'Ever wondered how realistic ER is? Then read Gawande's superb book. The truth, you will find, is far more compelling, though the endings are never as neat...Gawande makes the scenes far more dramatic than television ever can. He is a first-class writer.' Scotland on Sunday 'Written as tautly as a thriller.' The Observer 'I don't know if Atul Gawande was born to be a surgeon - I very much suspect so - but he was certainly born to write. This wise and exciting account of life as a surgical resident...perfectly captures the wonder and fearful responsibility that come with cutting people open in the hope of making them whole again.' Bill Bryson"

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and rivetting 29 Jun 2004
By James Bury TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What I particularly like about the book is that it goes beyond giving a slightly morbid peek into the medical world, and really involves you by raising all sorts of dilemmas and social issues that affect us all.
Do I want a novice surgeon operating on my child - certainly not. Do I want expert surgeons to be around when my daughter grows up - certainly do! So, who do I want them to learn on - someone elses child, the elderly or homeless??
What about medical negligence issues - if we keep punishing doctors for errors, how does that affect the treatments they're prepared to carry out or indeed the careers they're prepared to follow? Trial and error is an unavoidable part of developing new techniques. So if we want to reduce the number of errors, we have to be prepared to reduce ther level of progress in medecine. Where does that leave us when we're in dire need and only ground-breaking techniques can help?
This is a fascinating and sometimes disturbing book that should be compulsory reading for society as a whole, not just the medically curious.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing 4 Jan 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am currently a medical student and we were recomended this book in one of our lectures and it is one of the most interesting books that I have read this last year. It has enough medical facts to keep someone who has some (though not a lot) of knowledge into medicine but not to much that it becomes unreadable to people without the medical back ground. It raises ethical issues aswell. I really enjoyed this book and will be recomending it to all my friends.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed, honest, and fascinating 10 May 2004
This is a superb book. Gawande describes the trials, tribulations, and rewards of his surgical residency beautifully, with a collection of essays, comprising anecdote and musing, on various aspects of medicine. Yet despite the fragmented nature of the structure, the book flows well and gels nicely into a whole. Particularly fascinating are his thoughts on the intractability of pain, what makes a good doctor go "bad", and the perceived invulnerability of modern medicine, which he strips away with the same skill you can imagine him stripping away layers of tissue. Never failing to surprise, educate, and emote, this is a marvellous read, definitely in the "un-putdownable" category. The only reason it doesn't receive a fifth star from me is that it isn't in my top ten greatest books ever - but that is a personal quirk, nothing more. Highly, highly recommended.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Confident With Him as My Surgeon 26 Feb 2003
By taking a rest HALL OF FAME
"Complications", by Dr. Atul Gawande is a very gutsy and honest discussion about medicine in general, and surgeons in particular. The book is also unique, for unlike others of its type it is written by a surgeon that is starting his career, and not looking back upon it. I would imagine that the book caused some consternation amongst his peers. The book does nothing to minimize the skills and accomplishments of the men and women who can reach in to the body and do some pretty spectacular work. The book does portray them as human beings that come with all the normal traits that any of us do. The pressure they must deal with is that when they make a mistake, it can irreparably harm or cause the death of the patient they are trying to help.

The vast majority of careers that people practice do not involve decisions that can cause the outcomes I mention above. And few occupations require of their practitioners near perfection, that if not delivered has a major legal industry prepared to hammer them with lawsuits. Incompetent or negligent doctors should be punished and removed from practice, but what about a human error, or a doctor that makes every single decision that is correct and appropriate for the patient he or she sees, and misses the 1 in 250,000 cases where doing everything correctly can cause a patient to die. The final chapter of this book deals with exactly those type of odds. Whether those odds are beaten often depends on the instincts of the physician. And these intuitive feelings they may or may not act upon are certainly helped by experience, but younger doctors without the years that familiarity brings can often make a decision largely because they are so new. Dr.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible 11 Aug 2005
One of those rare books when only totally over-the-top adjectives leap to mind. Rivetting. Enlightening. Beautifully written. I defy anyone who can put this book down half-way through.
Buy it, read it and lend it to all your friends. Brilliant.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly recommended, fascinating book 19 Jan 2003
Dr Gawande has produced in 'Complications' an intriguing and absorbing text. This exploration of medicine reveals to the reader a world of scientific guesswork and intuition, all going on behind the facade of clear-cut clinical practice. As a surgical Resident, Dr Gawande provides the Physicians view - the control that people are willing to give to the doctor, allowing them to inject them with chemicals, perform procedures that could cause more harm if done incorrectly, and in the extreme to assume control of their vital functions. He also as a father conveys the mixed emotions elicited by surrendering ones children to those most capable of saving them.
However, 'complications' goes beyond this, with discussion of the motivation of the medical profession, its attitudes towards conditions that cannot be treated, and the 'gut feelings' rather than hard evidence underlying many diagnoses. Similarly, the attitudes towards medical teaching (wherein doctors learn by doing) are considered from the viewpoints of both doctor and patient, along with how and why doctors make mistakes.
This book must be recommended to anyone with even a slight interest in medicine, particularly those considering entering the medical profession.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommnded read
Dr Gawande writes with both purpose and clarity, detailing a collection of stories that provides a deeply personal, and occasionally moving, insight into a world that many will... Read more
Published 6 days ago by Bill
4.0 out of 5 stars thought provoking and an honest account of a resident's training years
Being a surgical trainee myself, I found Atul's experience both helpful and insightful into the everyday life of a resident's decision-making challenges. Read more
Published 1 month ago by S ARANGANATHAN
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
As a doctor I found resonance with a lot of what is there in the book. Good stuff enjoyed it
Published 4 months ago by dr sundar
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful essays on the problems of practising medicine
This is a brilliant selection of essays on the problems and pitfalls of practising medicine. I read these as a working doctor and very clearly recognised the dilemmas he... Read more
Published 4 months ago by The Five Sisters
2.0 out of 5 stars Complications
I felt this book was a bit of a mixed bag. Some essays were intriguing and enjoyable but a lot of essays were weak and boring. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Simone
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and Inspiring
I am applying to University to study medicine and this was a really amazing insight to medicine and the social responsibility of a surgeon. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Alex Green
5.0 out of 5 stars Surgeon with ethical thoughts
Humble but professional thoughts of a surgeon concerning medical profession, makes U think about the profession at times when the profession only gets more critical notes in press... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Filip
5.0 out of 5 stars Complications
This fascinating book provides insights into the world of medicine. It is about the author's triumphs and failures and about his mistakes and his almost miraculous intuitions. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Damaskcat
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Beautifully written, fasinating insight, absolutely loved reading it and would thoroughly recommend it to health professionals and lay people as well.
Published 13 months ago by Miss E Davidson
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best
Great writing, and I love every sentence of it. Anyone who has something to do with health care should read this. It is really eye-opening and thought-provoking.
Published 13 months ago by Julie Rudbech Krumborg
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