“Crammed with provocative insights, raw emotion, and heartbreaking dilemmas,” (The New York Times) First, Do No Harm is a powerful examination of how life and death decisions are made at a major metropolitan hospital in Houston, as told through the stories of doctors, patients, families, and hospital administrators facing unthinkable choices.
What is life worth? And when is a life worth living? Journalist Lisa Belkin examines how these questions are asked and answered over one dramatic summer at Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas. In an account that is fascinating, revealing, and almost novelistic in its immediacy, Belkin takes us inside a major hospital and introduces us to the people who must make life and death decisions every day.
As we walk through the hallways of the hospital we meet a young pediatrician who must decide whether to perform a risky last-ditch surgery on a teenager who has spent most of his fifteen years in a hospital; we watch as new parents battle with doctors over whether to disconnect their fragile, premature twins from the machine that keeps them breathing; we are in the operating room as a poor immigrant, paralyzed from a gunshot in the neck, is asked by doctors whether or not he wishes to stay alive; we witness the worry of a kidney specialist as he decides whether or not to transfer an uninsured baby to the county hospital down the road.
We experience critical moments in the lives of these real people as Belkin explores challenging issues and questions involving medical ethics, human suffering, modern technology, legal liability, and financial reality. As medical technology advances, the choices grow more complicated. How far should we go to save a life? Who decides? And who pays?
Lisa Belkin writes about American social issues. Her many roles at TheNew York Times included national correspondent, medical reporter, contributing writer to TheNew York Times Magazine and creator of both the Life’s Work column and the Motherlode blog. She has served as a senior columnist at the HuffPost and chief national correspondent for Yahoo News. Belkin is the author of three books, including Show Me A Hero, which was made into a David Simon HBO miniseries with the same title. She teaches narrative nonfiction writing and reporting at the Columbia University School of Journalism.