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How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America
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How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  1,120 Ratings  ·  179 Reviews
How We Do Harm exposes the underbelly of healthcare today—the overtreatment of the rich, the under treatment of the poor, the financial conflicts of interest that determine the care that physicians' provide, insurance companies that don't demand the best (or even the least expensive) care, and pharmaceutical companies concerned with selling drugs, regardless of whether the ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by St. Martin's Press (first published January 3rd 2012)
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Apr 14, 2013 Mary-Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I rarely give contemporary books a 5-star rating.

This is one of those books that will help you think straight about what may be happening to you and maybe the guy next to you the next time you visit a doctor's office or clinic.

The main author, Otis Brawley, was formerly director of the National Cancer Institute. He is well-credentialed, yet he advises patients not to be swayed by titles like "chair of the department" but rather to challenge the luminaries to justify their treatment decisions.
Michael Holtz
Feb 09, 2012 Michael Holtz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great read. From the opening story about a woman whose.breast falls off from cancer to the resulting advocacy of a man who lost his wife to the disease, this book sheds light on the multiple systemic ills of our health care system. Brawley is a doctor, but more importantly a great storyteller. This book is.frightening, infuriating, and amazing to read.
Jud Barry
Feb 17, 2012 Jud Barry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes books line up in unpredictable ways. I just finished Kahneman's "Thinking Fast and Slow," which discusses how our native thinking is heavily emotional and resists the hard work of rationality, and along comes this book--as if to use my own thinking to verify Kahneman's thesis.

Take screening for health problems. As an oncologist, Brawley primarily discusses cancer screening--but the epiphenomena surrounding identification and treatment of cancer may be taken as illustrative of the gener
Mar 03, 2012 Azure rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This Dr. is the chief medical & scientific officer of the American Cancer Society and a professor at Emery University. He is a practicing oncologist at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. I find him objective and realistic in his assessment of the challenges in our medical system. Driven by profits the rich are over-treated and the poor are under-treated. The well insured patient is an economic incentive to maximize the cut of every practioner who gets involved. (He calls this the 'wallet bi ...more
Mar 24, 2012 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Brawley has written a powerful indictment of the current state of health care in the United States. He asks the questions that need to be asked in an age where advertisement trumps evidence and he challenges those who know better to do better. Be warned: once you truly internalize the reality of the "wallet biopsy", you will never be able to see medicine the same way again. And that's a good thing.
Mar 10, 2012 Renee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: health, 2012
Dr. Otis Webb is brutally honest.....if we could all stand up to the "health care" system that we have like Dr. Otis, it would only change for the better. Would highly recommend.
Sep 20, 2012 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beware of the free cancer screening: just one of many wise ideas found in this infuriating book, written by Otis Brawley, MD, the chief medical/scientific officer of the American Cancer Society. Brawley has been on the frontline of the healthcare system for years, both as a policymaker and scientist in the national battle against cancer, and as a physician treating the urban poor at Grady Hospital in Atlanta. And let me tell you, Otis ain't happy with things, and he's calling bullshit. I became ...more
Mar 14, 2012 Melissa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Depressing all around. A sharp criticism of our health care system, filled with hopeless tidbits, such as America has the forty-fifth worst infant mortality rate on the planet, yet per capita our healthcare spending is the highest in the world. Well great, way to be, America! Expect horrific stories such as the woman with a tumor in her breast that was so big, her breast fell off or the man who had prostate cancer & begged for possibly unnecessary radiation after his surgery, which ended up ...more
Fred Trotter
Apr 24, 2012 Fred Trotter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent discourse on the economics of medicine, using the economics of cancer and the history of bad science on treating cancer as a rubric.

This book is really required reading for e-patient advocates because it dispels some of the core myths inherent in the pursuit of "better medicine".

Most notably, it really skewers the basic notion that "more testing" is a good thing. It shows how testing can be more dangerous than not testing, especially for poorly understood diseases.

It also sh
Mar 11, 2014 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting information regarding the harm that medical care can inflict on the patient. Always remember, first and foremost, medicine is a money making industry. It can be useful but as in any field what you don't know may harm or kill you. In addition, the medical professional you are trusting may or may not know much more about what they are recommending than you do.

Sometimes it's better/easier to die of the disease than to die from the treatment.

This is a book that everyone should read.
Mar 14, 2012 Sally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A prominent doctor provides a sobering inside perspective on problems with the American medical system and important questions ordinary people should ask when involved with this system. For each topic he begins with the stories of patients and his own experiences, and then analyzes why faulty outcomes are happening. These include people without insurance or access to the medical system except emergency rooms; doctors, industries and medical specialties driven by the profit motive (the more treat ...more
This book is one of a long string of books that caution against uncritically following your doctor's advice. Many factors contribute to U.S. citizens being overtreated and underserved: over-aggressive cancer treatment is just one of them. I'd go on about this, but for me it's a soap box issue. There'a a new book on my to-read list "The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System" - perhaps it will be of more guidance to a broader spectrum than Dr. Brawley's book.
Feb 02, 2012 Denise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: health
This is a must-read for everyone. I will be thinking about this book the next time I see my doctor.
Debra  Nicholls
Apr 01, 2012 Debra Nicholls rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A physician who speaks honestly and openly about the conflicts of interest that influence our current healthcare system. A must read for anyone who ever finds themself a patient.
Ed Wagemann
Mar 12, 2012 Ed Wagemann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In his book How We Do Harm, Otis Webb Brawley, M.D (whose credentials run on nearly forever and include being the chief medical and scientific officer and executive president of the American Cancer Society) gets especially upset when he hears politicians and pundits declare that America has the best health care system in the world. Those who say we have the best health care in the world are either completely ignorant and out of touch with the reality or they are straight up lying out their asses ...more
Jun 06, 2013 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Most of his substantive points make sense to me and seem almost unarguable. It's better to rely on clinical trials data to decide what to do than to base decisions on which Big Pharma rep just gave your MD free pizza and a pen. Quantitative reviews are useful for summarizing state of evidence on an intervention. Prostate cancer has been overtreated and represents "an epidemic of surveillance" as one of my friends likes to say. More screening is not always better. Wealth is unfortunately correlat ...more
Linda Lane
Jun 09, 2012 Linda Lane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is devastating to read, yet essential. Dr. Brawley is chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. The most care is not necessarily the best care, especially at the end stages of life. Do you have a living will? Will your loved ones know your wishes about the continuation of care when you can not make the decision yourself? End of life care is just one issue that Dr. Brawley touches on. I learned a great deal from reading this book.
Apr 05, 2012 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An important revelation to us healthcare consumers, as well as important input for policy makers. Dr. Brawley's real-life stories illustrate the problem with healthcare in our society. I am grateful for the warning and am renewing my personal commitment to refuse unnecessary and potentially harmful medications and procedures. But who will act to fix this? The drug companies and big health systems are so imbedded.
Janani Iyer
Apr 05, 2012 Janani Iyer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved reading this book. Dr.Otis correctly penned my outlook and opinion about the medical field in general. He may seem quite polarized in his view point but he has written the book with utmost honesty . If you are connected to the medical field ,you will understand this better as he mentions many drugs and treatment plans.Either ways quite an eye opener.
Thank you Sir....for an honest book..
this is a great book. it's well written and absolutely fascinating. the author is intelligent, well-read, and well-versed in his chosen profession. if i had the money, i'd send a copy of this book to each and every person on Capitol Hill and every person in every state senate, governor's mansion, and insurance company in the U.S.
Hashim Qureshi
Sep 17, 2015 Hashim Qureshi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An incisive look at the big business of American health care. Brawley is perhaps a bit too skeptical and his unrelenting cynicism blunts the impact of the book, but still essential reading for anyone in the health care field.
katen moore
Feb 25, 2012 katen moore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic!!! Excellent. Must read
Derrick Goodman
Mar 03, 2015 Derrick Goodman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read it BEFORE getting screened for lung, breast, or prostate cancer

How We Do Harm is a rare exposé by a top-ranking insider in the cancer-medicine (oncology) industry, horrified by his colleagues' lack of ethics and the greedy system that enables them. And Otis Webb Brawley, M.D., is dangerously armed for his task--a leading oncologist, researcher, professor, policy advocate, and Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society whose B.S.-detector is always "on"...and who also has the gifts
Oct 08, 2013 Book rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: health-care
How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America” by Otis Webb Brawley, M.D. with Paul Goldberg

“How We Do Harm" is an excellent expose of America's healthcare system. Chief medical and scientific officer and executive vice president of the American Cancer Society, Dr. Otis Webb Brawley takes the reader on an enlightening journey on how medicine is practiced versus how it should really be done. This book covers a gamut of hot-button topics and does so with a well-balanced approa
Quite a number of these insider books have been published recently, where doctors speak out about medical practice/malpractice in this country. Brawley is the Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society and has also worked at the Grady Memorial Hospital, which sees some of the poorest people and the uninsured. Brawley talks about how both inadequate insurance and wealth can get you poor care in our current health care system. The best treatment can be out of patients’ price range (and/o ...more
Brawley examines the failings of the current American medical system from both sides, meaning he looks at how we fail to properly treat those who are uninsured and can't afford to pay for skyrocketing medical costs as well as how we are often overtreated for a variety of reasons. Brawley is an oncologist so he looks at the issue through the lens of cancer treatment sharing both stories from his experiences as a doctor and as executive vice president of The American Cancer Society. I think what h ...more
Steve Matrese
Sep 17, 2012 Steve Matrese rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 17, 2013 Frank rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This should be required reading for anyone who votes. I especially recommend the section on prostate cancer screening to anyone who has (or had) a prostate. My only fault with the book is that is concentrated too much on cancer diagnosis and treatment (understandable since the author is an oncologist and vice president of the American Cancer Society) and did not talk much about antibiotic overuse, unnecessary surgery for back pain, overzealous procedures for heart disease, overuse of MRI/CT/etc. ...more
Michael Lauer
Dr. Brawley is angry, angry about a medical system that cars more about its own financial well-being then about the health of patients and populations. Much of what he says is spot on; his discussion about the harms of screening is particularly compelling. Unfortunately, the writing leaves much to be desired; there is too much use of angry vernacular and confused tenses. Some chapters, like the ones on prostate cancer screening, are cohesive, whereas others, including the epilogue, ramble. I hop ...more
Mar 23, 2012 Edward rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Otis Brawley tells the personal stories of people both saved and harmed by the US healthcare system. What makes the stories compelling and more than anecdotes is after detailing the mostly harrowing accounts of one person's struggle with illness, he zooms out and gives the perspective of a practicing clinical oncologist, a researcher and the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. None of the players, be they patients, providers or suppliers are spared his critical assessment as he ...more
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ePatient Book Club: How We Do Harm review 2 15 May 13, 2012 06:44PM  
  • Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health
  • Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer
  • Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won't Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care
  • The Undead: Organ Harvesting, the Ice-Water Test, Beating Heart Cadavers--How Medicine Is Blurring the Line Between Life and Death
  • The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care
  • White Coat, Black Hat: Adventures on the Dark Side of Medicine
  • The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It
  • Selling Sickness: How the World's Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies are Turning Us All into Patients
  • The Social Transformation of American Medicine: The Rise of a Sovereign Profession and the Making of a Vast Industry
  • Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA
  • Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine
  • Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It's Necessary, How It Works
  • The Lonely Patient: How We Experience Illness
  • Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic that Remains One of Medicine's Greatest Mysteries
  • Brain Surgeon: A Doctor's Inspiring Encounters with Mortality and Miracles
  • The Pain Chronicles: Cures, Myths, Mysteries, Prayers, Diaries, Brain Scans, Healing, and the Science of Suffering
  • Sick: The Untold Story of America's Health Care Crisis---and the People Who Pay the Price
  • Malice in the Highlands (Erskine Powell, #1)
As the chief medical officer and executive vice president of the American Cancer Society, Otis Webb Brawley, MD, is responsible for promoting the goals of cancer prevention, early detection, and quality treatment through cancer research and education. He champions efforts to decrease smoking, improve diet, detect cancer at the earliest stage, and provide the critical support cancer patients need. ...more
More about Otis Webb Brawley...

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“Here is the problem: Poor Americans consume too little healthcare, especially preventive healthcare. Other Americans—often rich Americans—consume too much healthcare, often unwisely, and sometimes to their detriment. The American healthcare system combines famine with gluttony.” 14 likes
“When it comes to screening, a doctor who says ‘Let’s err on the side of caution,’ may actually err on the side of reckless ignorance and grave harm.” 4 likes
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