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Your Medical Mind: How to Decide What Is Right for You Hardcover – September 20, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"You’ll close the book with an entirely new attitude and set of tools for making medical decisions… Groopman and Hartzband’s important book will help doctor and patient learn how each of us navigates our own tolerance for risk, thus improving outcomes on both sides of the examination table." — THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW (Daniel J. Levitin)

Your Medical Mind is a welcome and overdue comprehensive exploration of the patient’s perspective as he or she navigates the dizzying array of choices modern medicine presents.” — BOSTON GLOBE

“Part psychological study and part self-help book, Your Medical Mind doesn't provide answers but, rather, insights into navigating the increasingly daunting and dysfunctional world of medicine.” — NPR.org

“A welcome guide for those who are daunted by the choices they face, ranging from taking a cholesterol-lowering drug to making end-of-life decisions for a loved one.” — WALL STREET JOURNAL

 “This important and riveting book could change—and perhaps even save—your life.”

Daniel Gilbert, author of STUMBLING ON HAPPINESS

“Bringing the deep sensitivity and outstanding clinical skill that characterize all of his writings, Jerome Groopman has joined forces with Pamela Hartzband to bring us a message of wisdom and far-ranging importance. The complexities that face any patient in making personal medical decisions are here described, analyzed and clarified by two master physicians, who guide us with empathy, sincere caring and wide experience.”


Sherwin Nuland, author of HOW WE DIE

About the Author

Jerome Groopman, MD, and Pamela Hartzband, MD, are on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and on the staff of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. They have collaborated on articles for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press; 1 edition (September 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594203113
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594203114
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #455,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Davis Liu on October 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I looked forward to reading Dr. Jerome Groopman's new book, Your Medical Mind - How to Decide What is Right For You, co-authored with Dr. Pamela Hartzband. His previous work, How Doctors Think, shaped my thinking as a practicing primary care doctor on the importance of language and the potential pitfalls we make in reaching decisions. I always recommend my medical students read that book.

Unfortunately, his latest work fell quite short of my expectations. In it, the authors try to understand and create a framework on how patients reach decisions about their medical care. In the end, this was a book about human psychology wrapped in the doctor patient relationship. Nothing particularly earth shattering here.

The real question I had is who is responsible for helping patients avoid these cognitive and psychological errors? Patients or doctors?

They note how the mindset of patients can be divided into the following categories - "believers and doubters; maximalists and minimalists; a naturalism orientation or a technology orientation." Specifically, some patients want maximal treatment and others believe "less is more". To avoid cognitive traps, the authors recommend that data be viewed in both positive and negative forms. Telling a patient that a therapy has side effects for 10 percent of patients is very different than saying 90 percent of patients have no side effects.

Other tips to good decision-making included minimizing emotion before deciding, bringing a friend or family member to an appointment to provide additional eyes and ears, and also getting second opinions. Finding a doctor who provides "shared medical decision making" might also decrease the chance of making a choice only to regret it later.
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Format: Hardcover
I think this book did a great job of interviewing people in various stages of medical decision-making and using their choices to show the psychology behind it. The book shows you how doctors or drug companies can sometimes push their own agenda regardless of your feelings as well as the hard decisions people make to sometimes go against what their ailing loved one wants. If you ever need to receive treatment for anything in the future, this book will help you realize the psychological aspect of your decision and may help you make the right one.
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Format: Hardcover
This book has already helped me make decisions with my aging mother about her best medical options, while giving me a new perspective on taking care of myself.
The authors clearly know not only their own specialties, but the entire confusing state of today's medicine: insurance, choices, and standardized care. They're frank in their analysis and advice. I recommend this to anyone.
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Format: Hardcover
This book explores medical decision-making and emphasizes the role of various biases that affect our decisions, usually unconsciously. Overall, it's a pretty good book and I can recommend it, but it's somewhat heavy on narratives of case histories and light on systematic presentation of the key findings - basically opposite of a textbook and apparently targeted more at the general reader.

I personally would have preferred a more systematic presentation, but I went ahead and compiled my own summary of the key findings:

(1) In general, the findings described in the book apply to everyone involved in making medical decisions: patients, patient advocates, physicians, nurses, researchers, administrators, etc.

(2) Our backgrounds predispose us towards taking varying general approaches to making decisions, such as being a minimalist (as little treatment as possible, letting the body primarily take care of itself), maximalist (treating aggressively, including treating preventively), naturalist (favoring natural CAM treatments rather than conventional allopathic medicine), technocrat (favoring modern high-tech medicine), and pragmatist (choosing from the whole range of treatment options as each particular situation warrants).

(3) The way information is framed can greatly influence our decisions. For example, "40% of patients are cured by this treatment" sounds more encouraging than "this treatment fails to cure 60% of patients." An implication is that statistics for treatment outcomes have to be looked at carefully, and looking at only summaries of statistics can be misleading.

(4) Anecdotal cases (as reported in this book) can be informative, but they can also excessively influence our decisions (availability bias).
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Format: Hardcover
This book addresses the issue of how we make decisions about our medical care. Most of the book is comprised of case studies, actual patients who had to make decisions like whether to take cholesterol-lowering drugs, have knee surgery or sign do-not-resuscitate orders.

Drs. Groopman and Hartzband let the patients talk at length. Their stories are not simple tales with black-and-white answers or outcomes. The patients dither, they procrastinate, they clam up when they should talk frankly, they change their minds, they reject medical advice. Sometimes they do the right thing, sometimes they don't.

I appreciated this ambiguity. We often read medical horror stories and think, "Well, I wouldn't have made a mess of it like they did. I would have done the right thing." These stories show that the right course of action is often not clear or straightforward, and even when it is, it may be a difficult action to take, for many reasons.

Drs. Groopman and Hartzband do a fine job of identifying ways patients typically respond to medical advice, especially in the concluding chapter. You can skip right to that one, if you want: some people are believers, some doubters, some trust in natural therapies, some in technology, some people are minimalists, others maximalists. Most of us harbor some mix of these tendencies that guides our medical decision making.

I'm not sure the book addresses "how to decide what is right for you" as the subtitle suggests. I found the book to be more descriptive than prescriptive. And, I suspect that when most of us become patients we won't have the same luxury to weigh options and come to reasoned conclusions as the people in this book did. After a while, I just wanted to shout at some of these folks, "Take the pill! Have the surgery!
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