Rated Reads

The Surgeons: Life and Death in a Top Heart Center

by Charles R. Morris

Rated: Mild

Talent is talent. In this book, we have a talented business writer describing talented cardiothoracic surgeons. Morris makes it clear from the very beginning that he has absolutely no medical knowledge or training, which (in my opinion) makes for a far superior reading experience than if the author were a seasoned science or medical journalist. We get complete exposure to the inner workings (over the course of a year) of a gigantic medical center without the bias of an observer who has any experience at all in the health care field.

Columbia-Presbyterian in New York City is the busiest heart transplant center in America. Its affiliation with Columbia University means that it is also a center for leading-edge cardiac research, and all the surgeons are medical school faculty as well. These doctors are the best of the best when it comes to heart surgery, and the cases that are described give us regular people an insider’s view of incredibly difficult and advanced procedures, performed by highly trained specialists. I am happy to report that it is not gory in the least; the author leaves nothing out of his descriptions, but does not dwell on the unpalatable aspects of this particular medical field.

In the course of describing the patients and surgical procedures, we are led carefully through the history of cardiac surgery, the basics of how the heart functions, currently popular procedures, and what the future looks like for heart-disease treatments. As one would expect from a business writer, we are also exposed to the economic aspects of such care, with a number of thought-provoking predictions for the future of health care in America.

Overall, this is a fairly easy read, and the first two-thirds goes by quickly. The final chapters on money and policy drag on a bit, but are worth trudging through, especially as a few of Morris’ predictions are already coming true.

Rated: Mild. Only 4 objectional terms, all quotes from interviews, and only in the first half of the book.

— Reviewed by Craig Smith

Craig Smith is chief medical officer of Tacoma Cat Hospital. In addition to providing book reviews on Rated Reads, he podcasts about feline health issues through iTunes and www.tacomacat.com.

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  • The Surgeons: Life and Death in a Top Heart Center
  • by Charles R. Morris
  • Rated: Mild
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Reviewer: