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Confessions of a Surgeon: The Good, the Bad, and the Complicated...Life Behind the O.R. Doors Paperback – January 3, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0425245156 ISBN-10: 0425245152 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade; 1 edition (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425245152
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425245156
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The life of a general surgeon is more guts than glamour. Often sleep-deprived and standing on his feet for hours, this physician-author navigates anatomical intricacies and deals with unexpected bleeding. Not to mention the pressure of a full bladder midway through an operation or worrying about a potential malpractice lawsuit. The job requirements of his profession include good judgment, an ability to think and act quickly, self-reliance, and a fondness for using one’s hands. The job description sounds stringent: “Show me where the problem is so I can fix it, remove it, rearrange it, drain it, or pass you on to someone else.” Yet in a series of sentimental clinical vignettes, the doctor divulges a wide range of feelings: pride, guilt, humility, regrets, failure, and, ultimately, burnout. His patients teach him many lessons. Trust makes the physician-patient relationship work. Detachment can be difficult. Imperfection is inevitable. Survival (of patients as well as the doctor) is the bottom line. Honest and angry, this cutting memoir by a midcareer surgeon feels like an act of penitence. --Tony Miksanek

About the Author

Paul A. Ruggieri, M.D., is a practicing board-certified general/laparoscopic surgeon who has been operating for over 20 years. Dr. Ruggieri performed his surgical training at the world-renowned Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes Hospital, in St. Louis. He then spent three years as an active duty general surgeon in the U.S. Army. Currently, he is former chief of the department of surgery at a large community hospital in Fall River, Massachusetts, the very hospital he helped build as an ironworker before attending medical school nearly 30 years ago. Dr. Ruggieri has written several books for patients. He lives in Rhode Island with his wife and three stepsons. Visit his website at

More About the Author

Paul Ruggieri MD was born to middle class Italian parents and worked several jobs (such as postal worker and ironworker) prior to attending medical school. He attended Georgetown School of Medicine and in general surgery at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, MO. After surgical training, Dr. Ruggieri spent three years on active duty in the US Army as a general surgeon. He has been in private surgical for 20 years. Dr. Ruggieri has held a teaching position at Harvard Medical School in the past and department chair positions while in private practice. He has published several patient care oriented books on colorectal cancer, thyroid disease, and understanding your upcoming operation.

Visit Dr. Ruggieri at

Customer Reviews

I read this book and couldn't put it down.
Recommend anyone interested in medicine or understanding a surgeon's situation to read this book.
enjoyment reader
I believe that Dr. Ruggieri is a good surgeon who is honest with His patients.
Radine Ramsey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 71 people found the following review helpful By BrianB VINE VOICE on January 3, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Surgeons are full of courage. To cut into another human being, slicing through the living, bleeding skin, exposing the interior organs, removing, rearranging or remodeling them, requires outrageous conceit. An elective surgery, performed on a patient who is healthy, who freely requests such injury in pursuit of a greater good, is daring enough. But surgeons are often confronted with a desperate person, one who teeters on the brink of death, desiring only life. Surgery in such circumstances may save them, or it may hasten their departure to the land from which none return. The final arbiter of that hasty decision may be a judge and jury, and the final disposition financial and social ruin for the intrepid doctor. Who would choose such a job in a time of shrinking pay and waxing quality reviews?

Fortunately for all of us, there are plenty of individuals who would. The old axiom that surgeons are born, not made, holds true. Regardless of the rewards or penalties exacted upon their persons, surgeons can be nothing else but surgeons. So they tell us. And Dr. Ruggieri tells us plenty. In Confessions of a Surgeon, we read about his emotions, his late night thoughts, his shortcomings and misgivings, his resentments towards his patients, in short, his all too human traits. He writes about his mistakes, how they affect him, and how they affect his patients. Most patients don't like to think of their surgeon as a human being, but surgeons have all the limitations that the human condition entails. Star Trek Voyager may have the perfectly unflappable android doc, but you and I were born too soon for that. Some readers want the unvarnished truth, and here they will get it. If you prefer your surgeons on a pedestal, don't read this book.

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Sam Dedio on January 16, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well-written, easy to read book on the surgical profession past and present. Eye-opening insights to the good, bad and ugly aspects of the profession. The doc-writer brings to the fore the intersection of old-school "feel" of a surgeon and today's world of intense, regmented, diagnostic medicine. The author leaves no doubt and confirmed my own belief that a referral to a surgeon will put you on a path to a surgical procedure, with a second opinion only increasing your chances of going under the knife. The author did complain about the economics of the profession changing for the worse, but it wasn't over the top. He justly stated that the old school "business" is not what many surgeons bargained (my inference) and that the current direction of the regulatory framework governing hospitals and surgeons, would result in greater specialization, I.e. a surgeon that only performs surgery on thyroids or the colon. Great insights.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By James H. Nelson on January 22, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Prompted by a review in the WSJ by the author, Dr. Paul Ruggieri, I purchased this book via It was well worth the effort as the book presents a very honest, concerned surgeon responding to the stresses of challenging and medically fragile patients, exhaustion, threat of lawsuits, and the overwhelming number of regulations hovering over his shoulders in the OR. The WSJ review was printed before the book was available to the public. It generated a number of attacks against Dr. Ruggieri as the short review supported stereotypes of surgeons having temper tantrums, throwing instruments in the OR, and complaining of problems such as keeping the surgical field open in face of layers of fat in a 330 pound patient. These critics should read the whole book before throwing rightous barbs.

There is much humor, some of it dark,in the book. The information is true and written by a real doctor in the front lines of medicine and not by a non-medical scriptwriter or journalist.

His last chapter, WILL YOUR SURGEON BE THERE?, is a must read and could easily be changed to: WILL YOUR PHYSICIAN BE THERE? Physicians are now starting to retire at younger ages; not as many talented college graduates are applying to medical school; medicine has become a business and not a calling or profession; easier subspecialties with better work hours, more income, pleasant lifestyle, and time to sleep are causing a troublesome shortage of physicians in general surgery and primary care (internal medicine, pediatrics, and primary care.)

Dr. Ruggieri tells the truth in this highly readable and remarkable book. Surgery is a contact sport with life and death outcomes.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Patricia VINE VOICE on February 28, 2012
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I originally bought this book in the Kindle version but then wanted to give it as a gift to a doctor friend so I bought this hard-cover version for him. The author, a successful surgeon, is remarkably forthright in his descriptions of the life of a surgeon, covering his days in medical school to his early practice and later as a more experienced and respected practitioner. It is his openness about his mistakes that makes the book so interesting. I certainly admire him. He is not happy with the way the practice of medicine is moving today and spends a lot of time refuting it. That part can seem a bit preachy but the book is well worth it.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Michael D. Fisher on January 15, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
First off, I do recommend this book. For entirely too long the world of doctors has been 'behind the curtain'. Dr. Ruggieri should be commended for writing this book. He puts himself out there for all to see, warts and all.

That said, the book was a tad heavy on how he feels day to day and extremely light on medical technology. If he had explained why cutting the wrong thing would cause problems and HOW, I would have enjoyed the book more than I did. No spoilers here - I won't go into detail about what I feel was missing as it is surely subjective. You'll probably find the book more than enlightening.

A good, solid book about modern medicine from the other side of the gown. And I'm really happy to see a doctor admit that we, the patients, have feelings and hopes - most doctors are standoffish and perfunctory. Maybe someday that cold, uninterested doctor will see me to have their computer fixed. I'd love the turnabout.
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