Saturday, November 05, 2005
'House of God'
We discussed 'House of God' by Samuel Shem at 'Purple Coat Club' on Tuesday evening. I think it is safe to say that all of those present found it a pretty ghastly read. The book is a 'docbuster' widely read by medical students. It is famous for having introduced terms like 'gomer' ('Get Out of My Emergency Room') for geriatric patients, 'buffing' (making a chart look good regardless of the patient's treatment or condition) and 'turfing' (the process of moving patients between departments so that they are no longer your problem). So far, so bad, but the text is saturated with laviscious sex, drugs and suicide. None of the characters is particularly likeable (perhaps bar Berry). The staccato style of writing made it difficult to keep track of the somewhat insubstantial plot. In spite of it being awful, the book did make a good topic for discussion, with a lively debate on characterisation -- all the medics seemed to recognise people similar to those 'parodied' in the text -- and malpractice. Some of the themes have undoubtedly informed TV series such as 'Bodies' and 'Grey's Anatomy'. I think that the book is worth knowing about, if only as a cautionary tale to what medicine looks like when stripped of its humanity: it's diabolical, for patients as well as practioners. Other opinions?