Jerome E. Groopman


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How Doctors Think

Groopman, Jerome

Last Updated: Aug-06-2007
Coulehan, Jack
Annotator

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

In How Doctors Think, Jerome Groopman explores clinical decision making with a particular emphasis on the poor communication skills and cognitive errors that often lead to misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment. He uses a narrative approach, filling the book with compelling stories that illustrate the world of patient-physician interactions. Why did a second doctor quickly conclude that Blanche Begaye suffered from aspirin toxicity, while her first doctor mistakenly diagnosed viral pneumonia? Why did several physicians fail to diagnose Maxine Carlson's ectopic pregnancy until the day it ruptured? Groopman's storytelling skill permits him to convey complex concepts (e.g. availability bias, anchoring, and Ockham's razor) through conversation and narrative.

Three major themes run throughout the book, and each is presented with several variations. The first theme is that doctors who don't listen to their patients are likely to make serious mistakes in diagnosis and treatment. The second is that doctors frequently don't have the self-awareness to understand their own errors, especially those that involve dealing with ambiguity and understanding the importance of emotions. The final theme is that that patients ought to be active participants in their own care. This is not a new message, but Groopman frames it in a new way. Given the complexity of clinical decision making, and the many cognitive errors physicians may fall prey to, patients can improve their own care by helping their doctors minimize or avoid such errors. Among other things this means asking thought-provoking questions like "What else could it be?", "What is the worst thing it could be?," or "Is it possible I have more than one problem?"

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The Last Deal

Groopman, Jerome

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Kohn, Martin
Co-Editors

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Case Study

Summary:

A desperate patient visits a renowned oncologist with hope for a miraculous cure of his kidney cancer. The patient, a venture capitalist, doesn't want to die--can't face his death. He is willing to take whatever risk is necessary to survive. After a grueling course of experimental treatment and an expected period of remission, the cancer returns, leaving the patient (according to the physician-author) with an awful ending to his life--a death filled with regret.

What is revealed as Groopman deliberately walks "along the milestones" of his patient's life is more than the patient's story, however. For in addition to a chronicle of the disease's effect on his patient, the physician himself, and his concerns about the proper use of his knowledge and powerful tools also are revealed.

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Summary:

This book contains six medical case studies in which hope, or lack of it, played a role in the outcome. Five stories are of Groopman's cancer patients, the sixth the story of his own recovery from severe chronic lower back pain. The book concludes with an account of Groopman's search for scientific answers to the questions that inspired the book: How is the cognitive-emotional complex of hope formed in the mind? How might that complex affect the chemistry of the brain? And how might that, in turn, affect the physiology of the body in a way that would be relevant to healing?

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Kirk

Groopman, Jerome

Last Updated: Jan-28-2005
Woodcock, John
Annotator

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Case Study

Summary:

Kirk, a man in his 50s with highly metastasized kidney cancer, presents himself to Dr. Groopman after having been turned away as a helpless case by several respected cancer clinics. He tells Groopman that he is a risk-taking venture capitalist and is willing to take any medical risk on the chance that it will save him. After pondering the ethics of the situation and the nature of informed consent under such conditions, Groopman agrees to treat Kirk. He proceeds to devise a highly risky (and untried) combination of chemotherapeutic agents. The course of treatment is excruciatingly difficult, but the experiment succeeds, and Kirk's cancer goes into complete remission.

Kirk calls it magic, a miracle, and the hospital interns call it a "fascinoma," a case defying normal expectations. Groopman releases Kirk to home and weekly checkups with a local internist, but in doing so he notices that Kirk's mood has mysteriously changed. He has lost the "piss and vinegar" of their earlier contact. Kirk continues to improve physically, traveling and playing golf and even tennis, but Kirk's wife soon reports that Kirk has stopped reading the newspapers he used to devour, which now collect in their driveway.

Several months later some physical symptoms return, and Kirk's cancer is back. A month later he is dead. In talks with Kirk near the end, Groopman discovers that Kirk's brush with death had brought with it a new and sharply negative view of himself as selfish and disconnected from the world and other people. Suddenly all his financial success seemed to him "pointless," and, since his life contained nothing else, it seemed to him a waste, and he felt it was too late to live it over. What Kirk ironically calls "my great epiphany" seems to have undone his doctor's "magic."

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Summary:

Second Opinions, Jerome Groopman's second collection of clinical stories, illuminates the mysteries, fears, and uncertainties that serious illness evokes in both patients and doctors. The book is divided into 8 chapters, each a clinical story involving a patient with a life-threatening illness, plus a prologue and epilogue written by Groopman. The stories focus on people who face myelofibrosis, acute leukemia, hairy cell leukemia, breast cancer, and marrow failure of unknown cause. Two chapters are Groopman's personal accounts of his firstborn son's near fatal misdiagnosis, and of his grandfather's Alzheimer's dementia.

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