Sheila's Reviews > Doctor Confidential: Secrets Behind the Veil

Doctor Confidential by Richard A. Sheff
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May 05, 11

bookshelves: memoir
Read in May, 2011

My son is a newly minted doctor fast approaching the end of his internship year. I’ve learned that, at this stage of his life and his training, time is something owed to others, food is something snatched in rare moment when time permits it, life is what you remember living once, and sick leave is a luxury afforded only to your patients. Richard Sheff trained a generation ago and does a good job in his book, Doctor Confidential, of revealing not just the “secrets behind the veil” (as his subtitle promises) but also how the veil has shifted and moved over time. He reveals too, sadly, those things that haven’t changed, the dehumanizing hours, the lure of what’s possible over what’s desirable, the false lenses that all of us apply when looking at human frailty and sickness. And he tells his story in a way that pulls the reader in with fascinating details, a clever mix of footnotes and fast-flowing scenes, powerful vignettes and character studies of doctors and patients alike, and a subtle honesty that acknowledges both wisdom and uncertainty.

Anyone wondering what’s involved in a doctor’s training, anyone addicted to doctor shows on TV, and anyone considering entering medical school, or caring for someone who’s there, might benefit from reading this book. If some doctors seem quick to jump to conclusions and dismissive of a patient’s concerns, there are reasons. If some seem over-eager to treat the patient as a problem quickly resolved by technology, it just might be the way we’ve trained them, and trained the insurance companies, and trained ourselves that’s to blame. Does someone have a right to the best (and most expensive) treatment, or do others have an obligation to care about comfort and human feelings too? Is a human desire to feel cared for part of the reason for the growth in alternative medicine, and is a desire to see everything in terms of what we control part of the reason some doctors denigrate alternative approaches?

The author gives no simple answers, but leaves the reader with much to think about, and a recognition that there’s more at play than just technological achievement and intelligence. The story takes readers from first year medical school and gross anatomy lab to the end of the author’s family practice residency. The epilogue reveals how things turned out, and why he’s written his book. And the whole is a really enthralling tale of people, life and love—together with facts that make those terms on TV, and in the doctor’s office, mean much more and make more sense.

Disclosure: My other disclosure is that I received a copy of this book from the Cadence group in exchange for an honest review.

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message 1: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Wow, you really make me want to read this book! Great review.

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