First, Do No Harm

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Simon & Schuster, 1993 - Medical - 270 pages
35 Reviews
"A powerful, true story of life and death in a major metropolitan hospital...Harrowing... An important book." THE NEW YORK TIMES What is life worth? And what is a life worth living? At a time when America faces vital choices about the future of its health care, former NEW YORK TIMES correspondent Lisa Belkin takes a powerful and poignant look at the inner workings of Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas, telling the remarkable, real-life stories of the doctors, patients, families, and hospital administrators who must ask--and ultimately answer--the most profound and heart-rendng questions about life and death.

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To whom it may concern:
This is educational information.
The question is: can doctors conduct clandestine chemotherapy experiments, in the name of better medical care for future patients, on comatose patients without the consent of the family or patient.
This circumstantial evidence presented in the story strongly suggests that the doctors were engaged in experimenting with chemotherapy on a comatose patient.
My belief is that the dying patient, is protected by constitutional, human and civil rights until the moment of death. Therefore by these laws the doctors can not remove cells, parts of the body or conduct experiments on comatose patients without permission from the family of the patient.
The observation
During a visit with my father, who was dying at a hospital, I discovered circumstantial evidence that the doctors had conducted clandestine chemotherapy experiments on my father without my permission. It was an assault on a helpless comatose patient.
It was obvious too the family, nurses and doctors that my father did not have long to live. While I sat at my fathers bedside his doctor came in and said-he thought he could say this because my father was comatose- "Your father is going to die because his cancer has spread to other parts of his body." I took offense since my father was lying on the bed listening: who knows what dying people hear, and the doctor was talking like he wasn't there. I considered it to be improper conduct, he should have taken me aside and told me.
I reprimanded him. "Don't talk like that when my father is listening. He's not a piece of furniture." The doctor didn't like to be corrected. He had not been taught in medical school that the dying persons room is sacred, inviolable and belongs exclusively to the patient and his family. Respect is expected of everyone who enters it. In addition the hospital room is rented and the doctors salary is paid with federal tax money and that makes the doctor an employee of the patient and family.
The next day when I went to visit my father. He wasn't in his room so I asked the nurse where he was and she said he was on a gurney down the hall waiting for an attendant to take him to get some chemotherapy. At the time I didn't wonder why my father, who was comatose and dying, was getting chemotherapy.
It wasn't till the next day when the doctor said in a tone of voice suggesting he thought the news would make me happy, "I have good news we've gotten rid of the cancer in your fathers hip," that I realized what they had been doing to my comatose dying father. They were violating his dignity by giving him massive doses of experimental chemotherapy when he was helplessly comatose, without his permission, without the families permission, and the callous doctors thought that since he was comatose and dying that they could do what they please, and of course they did it to advance medical knowledge.
The doctors remark "I have good news we've gotten rid of the cancer in your fathers hip," was an admission and proof what they had been clandestinely doing that day.
My father went to the hospital expecting compassionate care, respect, and instead became a victim of their experiments. It was an assault on his human dignity. They ignored my fathers human and civil rights because he was comatose.

Review: First, Do No Harm: The Dramatic Story of Real Doctors and Patients Making Impossible Choices at a Big-City Hospital

User Review  - Jen Pierce - Goodreads

Not really sure how to review this book. It was certainly well written, but wasn't nearly as medically compelling and interesting to me as first person accounts written by physicians of their multiple ... Read full review

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About the author (1993)

Lisa Belkin is a reporter for The New York Times. She lives with her husband, Bruce, two sons, Evan and Alex, and dog, Riley, in Westchester County, New York.

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