Tuesday, Aug 16, 2022
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Washed Your Hand Of Ethics?

Then this first-person medical report is a must-read. For all its lapses, it's an honest spot diagnosis.

Atul Gawande’s first book Complications was about training to be a surgeon in the US. In his second book, he steps back from the immediacy of the learning experience and, using a part-story, part-informative style, records A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance. Gawande’s eye for detail and his discernment in prising out truths (though uncomfortable) make Better a worthy book. He’s at his best when he talks about simple issues—like hand-washing—and when he brings in his personal travails as he moves ahead in his career.

India is a strange country but the US is stranger. In this highly developed nation, 90,000 lives are lost each year due to hospital-acquired infections. Studies show that medical staff are often responsible for spreading infection, and that merely washing one’s hands before and after contact with patients reduces risk significantly. Read the book to find how tough it still is to convince medical professionals to follow this basic rule. In India too, even capable and experienced doctors, pleading the press of work, neglect such an obvious precaution. Maybe I like this chapter so much because it shows how difficult it is to get people—especially clever people—to do simple things.

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