Gynecologist Reflections

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The Book of the Week is “Gynecologist Reflections” by Robert A. Siegel, published in 2017. As is well known, until about the 1970’s, an American medical doctor was a trusted family friend, a generalist. The author started medical school at the dawn of that decade, and ultimately chose obstetrics and gynecology as his specialty. In this poorly edited volume, the author detailed his memorable patient-cases inside America’s changing medical industry amid changing cultural and economic times.

During his training, the author was required to perform abortions; if he didn’t, he’d be fired. Another medical institution wouldn’t accept him and he wouldn’t become a physician. He acknowledged the very emotionally charged, controversial nature of the procedure, and controversial nature of not only when life begins, but when it ends.

The author’s generation of medical interns was still male-dominated. According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked a detailed list of Notes, Sources, References, Bibliography and an index), most of the interns were brainwashed into thinking that working around the clock, saving lives on eight hours of sleep a week, was a macho thing to do. Of course, in the next few decades, American medicine became an increasingly litigious line of work and its trainees rebelled against the abusive hierarchy.

After about a decade, the author was able to make a living as a solo practitioner treating private patients. But his dedication to his work (which often involved emergencies) still left him severely sleep-deprived and very stressed. He admitted to coming quite close to making a medical mistake that would have resulted in a patient’s kidney failure. Fortunately, his assistant asked him a simple question about the task at hand.

In another instance, the doctor bragged about saving the lives of a woman and her later prematurely-delivered baby who were in a serious car accident. He got all the kudos, but explained that the surgical team, the technology and the hospital were just as responsible for the positive outcome.

The doctor also recounted a legal case of an acquaintance of his (who was also a doctor). The acquaintance gave verbal instructions, which the mother of the patient (a young child who apparently died through no fault of the doctor’s) failed to follow. He wrote, “You should have seen this lady. She was reeking of alcohol but we weren’t allowed to say that in court…” The initial jury-award unexpectedly, outrageously exceeded his malpractice insurance coverage.

Read the book to learn about: hemorrhages, caesarean sections, hysterectomies, OB-GYN screening tools, etc., plus the sociological aspects of the doctor’s practice, and biographical info on him– including how he almost died at a young age (hint: he led an unhealthy lifestyle to say the least– “Two days before my double by-pass was scheduled, I signed myself out [of the hospital] against medical advice.” Exhibiting arrogance and a feeling of invincibility, no doubt.).