About the book
The twelve essays collected in Silence Kills present a compelling, and often frightening, look at the lack of communication and understanding currently plaguing the American health care system.
These stories explore a wide and complicated range of experiences—a doctor is pressured into sending a patient home from the emergency room but later must face his decision when the patient suddenly dies; a physician deals with the doubt brought on by a malpractice lawsuit and must come to terms with the fact that even doctors are fallible and human; a woman fights for her mother’s mental health against a system eager to over-medicate the elderly; and more—but all share one thing: a frustration with a system that hinders communication and often leads to unnecessary suffering.
This compilation of life stories of people seeking treatment for illnesses accurately portrays the many aggravating factors that patients (and their families) face, along with their disease, as they encounter the U.S. health care system. The essays confirm the poor communication that often exists between health care providers themselves, providers and their patients, ans representatives of agencies and payers. The book includes poignant descriptions of the effects of inadequate resources, lack of staff, multiple errors, and unsafe conditions within hospitals and other agencies that provide health care. The editor describes very specifically the health care crisis taking place in the U.S., and urges an end to the silence about the terrifying situations that many patients experience and the huge number of errors occurring in the health care delivery system. The stories demonstrate many similarities and particularly point out how unsafe practices can result from poor communication between patients, providers, and payers. With today's high technology and the potential for offering the best medical treatments in the world, the U.S. health care system is seriously challenged and unable to offer quality care to all patients. Summing up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through professionals/practitioners; general readers.
Reviewed by S. C. Grossman, Fairfield University, for Choice (March 2008).
Devoted to the theme “Silence Kills: Speaking Out and Saving Lives,” this issue proves editor Lee Gutkind’s premise that “less literary” topics also lend themselves to artful writing as well as the detailed reporting associated with journalism. I agree wholeheartedly. In these essays, the authors recount their often frustrating – sometimes edifying – experiences with the health care system using a variety of narrative styles and tones, but all of a very high caliber. The authors treat such varied topics as blindness, overmedication, kidney dialysis, hepatitis, a gastrointestinal disorder; and all of the authors slip in enough medical information so that non-specialists can easily understand. Yet the overarching topic is communication – or lack thereof – and the implications this process has on the quality of patient care.
In “The Good Doctor,” readers learn about how a patient’s wrong lung was biopsied, in “Foreign Bodies” how a grandfather-doctor relationship goes awry, in “Non Pro Nobis” how John Bess, who had risked himself to care for patients in the military, became disenchanted with civilian medicine. Winning the prize for best essay in this issue with “Missing,” Merilee D. Karr describes her experience of being sued (and exonerated) for medical malpractice as a result of the patient lying to her.
I was angered by the communication problem – indeed medical chauvinism – portrayed in Jill Drumm’s “In Praise of Osmosis,” when a doctor puts his pride before his patient’s well-being, so it is no surprise that I rooted for Tamara Dean when she decided to take a more active role in her treatment for asthma in “Saving My Breath.”
This is the third volume of CN devoted to medical topics. An earlier volume, “Rage & Reconciliation,” was so popular that Southern Methodist University Press republished it in expanded form as a book, and the current volume will get the same treatment. Readers who enjoy “Silence Kills” might also like to check out the The Healing Muse, an annual journal devoted exclusively to medicine-themed prose and poetry published by SUNY Upstate Medical University's Center for Bioethics & Humanities.
Reviewed by Jeanne M. Lesinski for New Pages.