By Atul Gawande
(For Annals of Medicine for the New Yorker)
Sara Thomas Monopoli was pregnant with her first child when her doctors learned that she was going to die. It started with a cough and a pain in her back. Then a chest X-ray showed that her left lung had collapsed, and her chest was filled with fluid. A sample of the fluid was drawn off with a long needle and sent for testing. Instead of an infection, as everyone had expected, it was lung cancer, and it had already spread to the lining of her chest. Her pregnancy was thirty-nine weeks along, and the obstetrician who had ordered the test broke the news to her as she sat with her husband and her parents. The obstetrician didn’t get into the prognosis—she would bring in an oncologist for that—but Sara was stunned. Her mother, who had lost her best friend to lung cancer, began crying…
To read the entire piece, visit: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/02/100802fa_fact_gawande or download the PDF: Letting Go: What should medicine do when it can’t save your life?
About the Writer
A surgeon and a writer, Atul Gawande is a staff member of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and the New Yorker magazine. He received his B.A.S. from Stanford University, M.A. (in politics, philosophy, and economics) from Oxford University, M.D. from Harvard Medical School, and M.P.H. from the Harvard School of Public Health. He served as a senior health policy advisor in the Clinton presidential campaign and White House from 1992 to 1993. Since 1998, he has been a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine. In 2003, he completed his surgical residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, and joined the faculty as a general and endocrine surgeon.
He is also Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and Associate Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health. He has published research studies in areas ranging from surgical technique, to US military care for the wounded, to error and performance in medicine. He is the director of the World Health Organization’s Global Challenge for Safer Surgical Care.
In 2006, he received the MacArthur Award for his research and writing. His book Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes On An Imperfect Science was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2002 and is published in more than a hundred countries. For more information, visit his website: http://gawande.com/