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Publisher's Summary

Your doctor suggests you take a drug to lower your blood pressure, but you’ve read that it has risky side effects for some patients. Do you take the drug given the risks it entails, or do you risk living with high blood pressure? The answers to questions like this can be maddeningly—even dangerously—elusive, because our best interests are often hidden by our doctors’ preferences, drug companies’ propaganda, the vagaries of the healthcare system, and especially by our own anxieties, ideals, personal histories, and cognitive foibles.
As patients, each of us falls at some point along each of three spectrums: believer vs. doubter, naturalistic vs. technological, and narrative vs. numbers (that is, some put their faith in stories, others in statistics). Knowing where our personalities place us along these spectrums allows us to determine whether, say, a wait-and-see approach might make us feel better, physically and psychologically, than an intensive treatment, or whether our doctor is well or poorly suited to our needs and attitudes. Crucially, understanding our own personalities also alerts us to cognitive obstacles that might trip us up while making decisions about our care.
Drs. Groopman and Hartzband provide groundbreaking guidance any patient can use to tailor their medical choices to their own physical and emotional needs.
©2011 Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband (P)2011 Simon & Schuster
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By e-Patient Dave on 12-26-11

For patient engagement, a must read

I think anyone who wants to understand making the realities of making medical decisions needs to understand the cases in this book. No simple answers here, and that's the point.

I'm deeply into the fields of shared decision making and patient autonomy, from the patient's perspective and as co-chair of the Society for Participatory Medicine. This isn't a lightweight book - the issues and cases presented are serious and thought provoking, at times heart-breaking - but it's highly readable and, as with Groopman's other books I've read (Anatomy of Hope, How Doctors Think), eminently understandable.

I like that he's joined here by his wife, also an MD, and that they start by sharing their own different preferences in decision making, arising out of their different upbringings.

They present principles and challenges, and then illustrate them with cases. Each is presented as it unfolded in reality, with no certainty about how things would go - because that's how it is in real time, for both the physician and the patient. (Any physician who asserts certainty is either blowing smoke, or lying, or misguided in his/her own sureness, because *nothing* is absolutely certain.)

At times I picked up what seemed to be signals that not every doctor who urges you to do something may be acting with *your* interests as the #1 priority. That can add to the reality of the uncertainty you face. But even in the best of circumstances, as you face decisions and plan for your own end of life, you just don't know, and it's best for all to understand this as part of the fabric of life.

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Likes Books A Lot on 03-06-12

Big help to me

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?


Any additional comments?

I have had two big decisions to make about medical treatment for myself this year. I have made those decisions with the help of this book. I have great trouble actually reading self help books. I like to read to escape my own life and venture into other lives, but the information to be found here is most valuable. Doctors have so little time to spend with their patients these days and most are not as skilled as these two. Thank you, doctors Groopman and Hartzband. The readers have done an excellent job as well.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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