Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis (Paperback)
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A riveting exploration of the most difficult and important part of what doctors do, by Yale School of Medicine physician Dr. Lisa Sanders, author of the monthly New York Times Magazine column "Diagnosis," the inspiration for the hit Fox TV series House, M.D.
"The experience of being ill can be like waking up in a foreign country. Life, as you formerly knew it, is on hold while you travel through this other world as unknown as it is unexpected. When I see patients in the hospital or in my office who are suddenly, surprisingly ill, what they really want to know is, ‘What is wrong with me?’ They want a road map that will help them manage their new surroundings. The ability to give this unnerving and unfamiliar place a name, to know it—on some level—restores a measure of control, independent of whether or not that diagnosis comes attached to a cure. Because, even today, a diagnosis is frequently all a good doctor has to offer."
A healthy young man suddenly loses his memory—making him unable to remember the events of each passing hour. Two patients diagnosed with Lyme disease improve after antibiotic treatment—only to have their symptoms mysteriously return. A young woman lies dying in the ICU—bleeding, jaundiced, incoherent—and none of her doctors know what is killing her. In Every Patient Tells a Story, Dr. Lisa Sanders takes us bedside to witness the process of solving these and other diagnostic dilemmas, providing a firsthand account of the expertise and intuition that lead a doctor to make the right diagnosis.
Never in human history have doctors had the knowledge, the tools, and the skills that they have today to diagnose illness and disease. And yet mistakes are made, diagnoses missed, symptoms or tests misunderstood. In this high-tech world of modern medicine, Sanders shows us that knowledge, while essential, is not sufficient to unravel the complexities of illness. She presents an unflinching look inside the detective story that marks nearly every illness—the diagnosis—revealing the combination of uncertainty and intrigue that doctors face when confronting patients who are sick or dying. Through dramatic stories of patients with baffling symptoms, Sanders portrays the absolute necessity and surprising difficulties of getting the patient’s story, the challenges of the physical exam, the pitfalls of doctor-to-doctor communication, the vagaries of tests, and the near calamity of diagnostic errors. In Every Patient Tells a Story, Dr. Sanders chronicles the real-life drama of doctors solving these difficult medical mysteries that not only illustrate the art and science of diagnosis, but often save the patients’ lives.
About the Author
Lisa Sanders, M.D. is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Yale University School of Medicine and a clinician educator in Yale’s Primary Care Internal Medicine Residency program. Dr. Sanders writes the popular “Diagnosis” column, which appears monthly in The New York Times Magazine.
Her column was the inspiration for the acclaimed Fox television show “House M.D.,” and she currently serves as technical advisor for the show. Although teaching about clinical reasoning and diagnostic error is her first love, much of her research and practice focus on the treatment of overweight and obese patients She is the author of The Perfect Fit Diet: How to Lose Weight, Keep it Off And Still Eat the Foods You Love.
Before entering medical school, Sanders was an Emmy Award-winning producer at CBS News, where she covered medicine and health and she also worked as a producer at ABC and NBC News. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut.
"Lisa Sanders is a paragon of the modern medical detective storyteller. The tales here crackle with suspense. But what sets her apart is her Holmes-like eye for the clues–and her un-Holmes-like compassion for those who suffer."
—Atul Gawande, author of Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance and Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science
"Dr. Lisa Sanders is the most acute observer of health care in America. In this compelling book, she opens the black box of diagnosis and lets us look inside."
—Ian Ayers, author of Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart
"Not ‘whodunit’ so much as ‘whatdunit,’ Lisa Sanders’ s book brilliantly conveys the sleuthing that lies at the heart of medical diagnosis. But this is more than a set of suspenseful tales unfolded by a skilled storyteller. Amid all the flash and dazzle of the modern doctor’s high-tech armamentarium, Dr. Sanders finds that all too often it is the ancient skills, of touch and of attentive listening, that serve the physician, and her patients, best of all. Enlightening for patients, essential for practitioners, this book should be read by every doctor. I’m praying that mine will."
—Geraldine Brooks, author of March, People of the Book, and Nine Parts of Desire
"Lisa Sanders has written a beautiful, thought-provoking book about the sine qua non of medical care–diagnosis. She tells stories about great diagnostic triumphs and explains both the pitfalls and successes of diagnosis. Her patient stories captivate the reader as we try to solve the unfolding mystery. Through these stories we understand and remember the importance of accurate diagnosis."
—Robert Centor, MedRants.com
"Every Patient Tells a Story is a must-read for anyone who has ever been a patient or is a doctor. Written by a physician I respect and a writer I love, the book is filled with intriguing diagnostic dilemmas that will draw you in, and with human stories that will linger in your mind—and heart—long after you are done."
—Pauline W. Chen, author of Final Exam