Title: Five Patients
Author: Michael Crichton
First published June 1, 1970
204 pages, Mass Market Paperback
Michael Crichton’s Five Patients is a gripping and immersive account of real-life medical emergencies that inspired the hit TV series ER. With his firsthand experience as a medical doctor in the emergency rooms, operating rooms, and wards of Massachusetts General Hospital, Crichton offers an unforgettable glimpse into the high-pressure world of medicine.
This book follows the stories of five patients, including a construction worker who is severely injured in a scaffold collapse, a feverish middle-aged dispatcher, a young man who nearly severs his hand, an airline traveler with chest pains, and a mother of three who is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Through these intense and dramatic cases, Crichton masterfully weaves together the human stories behind the medical procedures and highlights the incredible skill and dedication of medical professionals.
About the Author
Michael Crichton was a renowned novelist who was celebrated for his attention to scientific detail and gripping storytelling. He was a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard Medical School and earned his MD in 1969.
Crichton authored eight novels under the pseudonym John Lange, and also wrote under the names Michael Douglas and Jeffery Hudson. His book A Case of Need was recognized with the Edgar Award in 1969.
Crichton’s work was popular across the globe and he sold more than 200 million books. His novels have been translated into thirty-eight languages and thirteen of his books have been adapted into films.
Sadly, Crichton passed away from lymphoma in 2008 at the age of 66.
In Michael Crichton’s “Five Patients,” published in June 1, 1970, the acclaimed author and physician takes readers on a fascinating journey through the modern hospital system. Through his detailed examination of five patients with different illnesses, Crichton provides readers with a peek into the inner workings of hospital life, from the perspective of both the patients and the medical professionals.
Crichton’s writing is distinguished not only by his attention to detail and rigorous research but also by his ability to communicate medical jargon and complex procedures in a way that is both clear and accessible to the average reader. The book is written in a descriptive, journalistic style, weaving together the stories of these five patients with keen insights into the workings of the medical establishment, shedding light on the power dynamics that exist between patients, physicians, and hospital administrators.
The book opens by exploring the case of a young woman suffering from a debilitating bone disease, her condition rapidly deteriorating despite the efforts of her doctors. Other patients featured in the book include a critically ill burn victim, a young woman experiencing a dangerous hemorrhage during childbirth, an elderly man dying from a chronic illness, and a mentally ill patient struggling with suicidal tendencies.
Crichton handles each case with care, providing readers with an emotional and personal glimpse into the lives of these patients and the medical professionals who work to save them. Each chapter provides a unique and thought-provoking look at the challenges facing the modern medical system, from the perspective of both the patients and the healthcare providers.
The book’s significance is not limited to its insights into the hospital system, however. It also speaks to the larger cultural and historical context of the late 1960s, a time of great political and social upheaval in the United States.
In analyzing the issues of healthcare reform, medical ethics, and the intersection of medicine and society, Crichton draws attention to the larger social problems of the day, including the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, and the fight for women’s rights. Crichton’s storytelling, although at times slow-paced, is engaging and insightful.
Each chapter presents a compelling and unique story, providing readers with a wide range of perspectives on the medical profession. The book’s greatest strength, however, lies in its ability to connect the micro-level of individual patient cases to the macro-level of larger societal concerns.
One of the book’s weaknesses is its lack of focus on medical errors and patient safety, issues that have become increasingly salient in the decades since the book’s publication. Nonetheless, “Five Patients” remains a valuable and thought-provoking work, inviting readers to consider the complex social and ethical issues surrounding the delivery of healthcare.
In conclusion, “Five Patients” is an essential read for anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the modern medical system, as well as the intersection of medicine and society. With impeccable research, clear writing, and an insightful analysis of the medical establishment’s inner workings, Crichton has produced a masterful work of nonfiction that remains relevant and illuminating fifty years after its publication.
As such, I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in healthcare, medicine, or social justice. 4.5/5.0 stars.