Matthew Fitzgerald's Reviews > Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science

Complications by Atul Gawande
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Jun 17, 2011

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Read in May, 2011

I liked this one well enough. Gawande brought larger issues like obesity/bariatric surgery, cosmetic surgery as a whole, failing doctors, and other medical issues to life by skillfully linking the medical idea with a human story, a patient, that readers could identify with. Establishing a "character" to follow allows him to orbit broad issues and provide different perspectives on singular cases. He's a skillful writer and clearly a talented doctor. So why only three stars? Well, each chapter kind of stood alone, with little connective tissues between them. Not a huge failing, but it did feel like an anthology of articles at times (which I'm pretty sure it was). Ultimately, though, this book had three stellar stories to tell: the prologue of the author as a resident struggling to come to grips with just how imperfect medicine can, the gastric bypass patient who seemed to embody nearly all the facets of the obesity epidemic in one concise story, and the final story of necrotizing fasciitis that further illustrated how hunches and epiphanies and just better-safe-than-sorry-lucky-guesses can be as useful in medicine as the most hi-tech machines and lab equipment. Those three stories were fantastic. Everything else was lukewarm - blushing? really? - and for that, good as the writing may have been and interesting as the topics were, it gets three stars.
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