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5 Patients -Lib -OS Library Binding – January, 1989
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Michael Crichton, creator of many a blockbuster, began his writing career while still a student at Harvard Medical School. Though he never practiced medicine, the education was enough to put a gloss of verisimilitude on works like The Andromeda Strain and the long-running television hit ER. Five Patients is ER in real life--circa 1969, when Crichton graduated from medical school. Five different patients are examined at Massachusetts General Hospital; each patient's story illustrates some larger aspect of the hospital system. Thus, Ralph Orlando's death from cardiac arrest engenders a brief history of the modern hospital and emergency ward. John O'Connor, who has an unexplained high fever and infection, spends a month in the hospital, leading to a discourse on the cost of medical care (perhaps the most eye-opening chapter of the book--or the most unintentionally funny one from a 1999 perspective). The saga of Peter Luchesi, a worker whose hand is nearly severed in an industrial accident, leads to a discussion of 20th-century surgical advances. Sylvia Thompson, a traveler with chest pains who is seen by a doctor via closed-circuit TV at an airport, benefits from new (at the time) diagnostic and therapeutic technologies that have altered irrevocably the doctor's role. Finally, the case of Edith Murphy, diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, serves quite literally to educate the medical students and interns who take on much of her care, as the hospital staff hierarchy is dissected and explained. Crichton's style here tends to the sober and bureaucratic--reading it is much more like brain surgery than hanging out in the staff room with George Clooney and Noah Wyle--but for the industrious it's a fascinating glimpse of pre-HMO medicine. --Barrie Trinkle --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"Crichton writes superbly" * Chicago Tribune * --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
The name of the book basically is what the plot is entirely about. It focuses on five different cases of patients at the Massachusetts General Hospital. I found that the book isn't really a true story by normal standards. What Crichton has done is use the five different cases to explain current trends in medicine. The cases presented do not provide any sort of anticipation or excitement. They are just random health anomalies or accidents which are used to helped transition into different topics of medicine.
The explanations are very in depth and well thought out, but they are not very interesting to read for the common person. Crichton does a good job at breaking down the information that is presented. Much of what he talks about is very specialized to the field of medicine, but he explains it all very clearly (although some parts are just too complex to understand without further research). Crichton also touches on some of the problems facing people and medical costs at the time of publishing. These problems still exist and it was interesting to some degree to read more in depth to some of the problems plaguing the health care system.
For the most part, this book is not your typical Michael Crichton book. It focuses more on factual evidence on the trends in medicine and hospitals rather than actual story and excitement. If you find yourself interested in a medical profession, than this book may be very interesting to you. If you are looking for a good story and excitement, this may not be the best choice.
I believe that Crichton's books aren't for everyone, but if you're interested (even slightly) in medicine, in this case, you should pick this up. I'm sure this is a great read for medical students. Being an engineer, I never thought about how medicine and hospitals have evolved and this has opened my eyes to the trials and some tribulations that have endured to bring about modern medicine. I would recommend this book to anyone who's interested in medicine, drama and history. Give it a read!
Crichton writes in a very clear way, and truly knows his stuff. He also wisely emphasizes the idea of a Hospital as a work in process. He would be the least surprised at knowing how much has changed in the forty years since the initial introduction of this book.
So while this book does not have the kind of dramatic power that case- history works of Barton LeRouche and in another way Oliver Sacks have, it is a very informative and insightful read.
Along with a deeper understanding of where Crichton comes from, the reader will also get a deeper understanding of the modern day hospital and the things that go right, and wrong, inside its walls.
This is not the Crichton you think you know, so don't buy it if you want another Jurassic Park. Instead, buy it as a window to the past to see a Michael Crichton you won't see anywhere else.