Exploring the Fallibility of Modern Medicine

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In this age of laser surgery and artificial hearts and disease eradication, Americans tend to believe that modern medicine can fix anything. But according to studies, medical mistakes kill as many as 98,000 people every year — more than the number of deaths caused by car accidents, AIDS, or breast cancer.

In his new book, "Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science," surgery resident and medical journalist Atul Gawande describes surgery — the most invasive and highest risk of all medical procedures — as a profoundly human endeavor.

Sometimes, doctors have to make decisions quickly, even when not all the information is known. Sometimes, mistakes are made. Sometimes, even the best doctors are at a loss to explain the cause of a particular health problem. But despite its fallibility and limits, Gawande maintains his awe and hope about all that medicine can achieve.

This hour, Atul Gawande explores the limits and fallibility of modern medicine.


Atul Gawande, surgical resident in Boston, staff writer on medicine and science for The New Yorker, author of "Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science"

This program aired on April 29, 2002.


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