Last June, I wrote a post about what it would cost to be treated by the loved and hated fictional physician Gregory House, from the popular Fox television show House. It was actually a post about a book authored by Andrew Holtz. Well, Holtz is at it again, with a new book House, M.D. vs. Realityhttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=wrighto-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0425238938&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr, which goes beyond the science of House to explore the show and separate fact from fiction.
Now, you might be thinking “Of course it’s fiction. It’s a television show.” That’s true, but as Holtz lays out at the beginning of the book, people’s perceptions of reality are significantly altered by what they watch on TV. For instance, I’m guessing that few of you who read this blog have actually been present during the performance of an autopsy. Yet, if I asked you to describe to me what an autopsy room looks like and what happens during the procedure, many of you would begin by describing a dimly lit room. Having been present at a number of autopsies, I can assure you that the room is brightly lit with harsh fluorescent lights. My description would be based on reality. Yours, influenced heavily–in fact almost entirely–by shows like Bones and CSI.
The material presented on TV also has the potential to be informative, however. As Holtz describes, accurate information about diseases, tests, procedures, and even ethical issues, can actually educate viewers, and this seems to be at the heart of his book. A lot of people watch House and other similar shows. Holtz’s goal is to help them understand which parts are accurate reflections of the practice of medicine and which parts are nothing more than entertainment.
He covers everything from what actual physicians think about Dr. House, to how addiction is identified and treated in physicians (House being well-known for his Vicodin habit). He also talks about how decisions are made, how the hospital administrator-doctor relationship works in reality, and what happens when doctors make mistakes. Now, a lot of the points Holtz makes are of the “Well, duh” variety, but there are a lot of interesting insights in the book as well, and it’s a quick enjoyable read. It won’t be long before the warmer weather gets here and many of you will be headed to the beach or the pool. I’d encourage you to pick up a copy of Holtz’s book and read it there. Like a good episode of House, this is a book to be enjoyed, not scrutinized.