Book Review | Complications by Atul Gawande

Book Review Complications by Atul Gawande : The Doctor author delves into the Human, Emotional and ethical side of Medical profession.

Atul Gawande’s Complications : Notes from the Life of a Young Surgeon is a piece of literary non-fiction. Offering the reader a peek behind the curtains, it is at once ruthlessly honest and warmly compassionate. One reads in awe as a surgical resident, nearly at the end of his eight years of training in general surgery, navigates through an ethical minefield, tackling one moral dilemma after another with disarming sincerity.

The book starts with the curious case of a young man shot in the buttock and ends with the successful recovery of a girl who had flesh-eating bacteria in her leg. Intriguing medical cases always make for compelling reads but “Complications” is much more than just that. It throws light on the dark corners of the field where uncertainty lurks, educating the reader about how doctors make decisions when the science is simply insufficient. As Atul Gawande puts it, “For what seems most vital and interesting is not how much we in medicine know but how much we don’t – and how we might grapple with that ignorance more wisely.”

Book Review Complications by Atul Gawande

The first part of the book deals with fallibility through chapters like “Education of a knife”, “When doctors make mistakes” and “When good doctors go bad”. The central theme of these chapters is that doctors are but human. In “ When doctors make mistakes” Gawande points out, “No matter what measures are taken, doctors will sometimes falter, and it isn’t reasonable to ask that we achieve perfection. What is reasonable is to ask that we never stop to aim for it.”

When the author talks about the unnerving fact that doctors are not machines or robots (The computer and the hernia factory), the reader oddly finds peace in this discovery. For there is something comforting in the knowledge that behind the surgical mask is a compassionate human being, aware of the high stakes and who strives for his patient’s well being.

The second part of the book is about the mystery that shrouds certain medical cases. The most interesting chapters being “A queasy feeling” and “The man who couldn’t stop eating”.

Dr. Atul Gawande

Dr. Atul Gawande

In the third and last part of the book titled “Uncertainty”, the author talks about the ethical conundrums of involving a patient in medical decisions related to his life and how even in moments of doubt and hesitation, critical decisions must be made.

Unlike most books written by doctors, “Complications” neither portrays doctors as heroes, nor as villains. Atul Gawande maintains an objective outlook throughout the book and yet displays utmost compassion and sensitivity while talking about events – the hallmark of good reporting.


The book is one of those rare books where a good subject is handled with an even better writing style. Thought provoking, soulful and easy to follow, it leaves the reader not only entertained but also enlightened. I highly recommend it to doctors and patients alike. Speaking of those in medical profession, the book will inspire them and there are chances that they will be smitten by it. Particularly when choosing medical profession as their career came from their heart.

RATING: 5/5 Stars

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  • DOKTOR D. May 10, 2015, 11:08 pm

    Loved the review! I am definitely gonna buy it!