M&M is the byword each Monday morning in the neurosurgery department at Chelsea General Hospital. The 6:00 a.m. Morbidity and Mortality conference is religiously attended by all members of the neurosurgery team. In this closely guarded atmosphere, issues that arise during surgery in the most technically complex procedures in modern medicine are presented in the bright, white light of peer review. No matter how skilled or experienced the surgeons, mistakes can and are made. The men and women who hold lives in their hands voluntarily stand before their colleagues to examine what went wrong. This is a safe place where the purpose is not to assign blame. The sole purpose of the Morbidity and Mortality conference is to examine their mistakes to determine what might have been done differently in order to continually improve their skills.
"Sanjay Gupta has created engaging characters in a team of five surgeons and their families and friends. This story is a fascinating look inside the tenuous atmosphere of a modern neurosurgery department."
Sanjay Gupta has created engaging characters in a team of five surgeons and their families and friends. This story is a fascinating look inside the tenuous atmosphere of a modern neurosurgery department. From the gargantuan ex-football player Gato Villanuevaand the crusty ER chief who directs his department like a master of ceremonies to the newest intern, the engaging characters keep Gupta’s first novel rolling from the opening scene to the dramatic climax.
As one of Dr. Gupta’s characters says, “sometimes bad things happen to good people.” Neurosurgeons must retain unwavering self-assurance as they wield their instruments in the brain, the most vulnerable part of the human body, and yet sometimes things go devastatingly wrong. Can a highly successful master of the art of surgery live with himself when he misses an important piece of information and loses a young boy? How does a brilliant surgeon and mother of two juggle her demanding schedule and keep her marriage and home intact? The distractions of private lives and pressures of the operating room make for a gripping novel about life and death situations. How does a brilliant young surgeon, newly arrived in America, cope with his own uncertain future when he is diagnosed with a brain tumor?
The author of two bestselling nonfiction books on health, Gupta is a practicing neurosurgeon at Emory University Hospital. As the chief medical correspondent for CNN and a special correspondent for CBS News and “60 Minutes,” he is uniquely qualified to pull back the curtain and take us inside the M&M discussions, the life and death atmosphere, and the politics of an urban teaching hospital.
Gupta discloses some of the seemingly minor slips that can cause irreparable damage not only to the patient and family, but also to the doctors in charge. It is the Morbidity and Mortality conference that keeps the most conscientious doctors on their toes. Gupta has proven to be as adept at fiction as he is in his television role. He has created a dramatic and moving novel that will be devoured by medical fiction fans.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on March 30, 2012