If you want to see the difference between how doctors and patients think, read Jerome Groopman’s “How Doctors Think” and Thomas Goetz’s “The Decision Tree.” The contrast is striking.
“How Doctors Think,” while offering a comprehensive review of the cognitive missteps made by physicians, is terminally physician-centric in its analysis of the relationship we share with patients. “The Decision Tree,” while offering a novel blueprint for self-reliance in health, seems almost sheepish in its recognition that physicians are even really that important. The muted physician cameos of “The Decision Tree” stand in stark contrast to Groopman’s Harvard-trained masters of the universe.
If I had it my way Groopman would tell us about how patients are thinking, and Goetz would discuss how doctors factor practically in to the “decision tree.” Of course a smart editor would never let this happen. Groopman’s readers pine for the stereotype physician hero. Goetz’s readers want the kind of empowerment that leaves physicians in the dust.
But reading in general — fiction and non-fiction — is ultimately about the fulfillment of fantasy. It’s about how we want to see things and what we want to believe as patients, or even as physicians. Both books offer generous helpings of red meat to its respective base.