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Five Patients [Mass Market Paperback]

Michael Crichton
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 13 1989
"Crichton has an extraordinary capacity to seize upon, then make real and personal, the new and the complex, the intriguing and the frighening."
In this incisive, detailed survey of five patients, famous thriller author and doctor Michael Crichton explores the dramatic workings of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston's oldest and most prestigious.
This readable account covers not only the history of the hospital's place in society, but also the actual minute-to-minute functions of Mass General, where health professionals wage their daily battle against disease and death. Crichton's insightful look at the changes in medicine and surgery caused by technological strides of recent years makes for amazing reading.

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Michael Crichton, creator of many a blockbuster, began his writing career while still a student at Harvard Medical School. Though he never practiced medicine, the education was enough to put a gloss of verisimilitude on works like The Andromeda Strain and the long-running television hit ER. Five Patients is ER in real life--circa 1969, when Crichton graduated from medical school. Five different patients are examined at Massachusetts General Hospital; each patient's story illustrates some larger aspect of the hospital system. Thus, Ralph Orlando's death from cardiac arrest engenders a brief history of the modern hospital and emergency ward. John O'Connor, who has an unexplained high fever and infection, spends a month in the hospital, leading to a discourse on the cost of medical care (perhaps the most eye-opening chapter of the book--or the most unintentionally funny one from a 1999 perspective). The saga of Peter Luchesi, a worker whose hand is nearly severed in an industrial accident, leads to a discussion of 20th-century surgical advances. Sylvia Thompson, a traveler with chest pains who is seen by a doctor via closed-circuit TV at an airport, benefits from new (at the time) diagnostic and therapeutic technologies that have altered irrevocably the doctor's role. Finally, the case of Edith Murphy, diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, serves quite literally to educate the medical students and interns who take on much of her care, as the hospital staff hierarchy is dissected and explained. Crichton's style here tends to the sober and bureaucratic--reading it is much more like brain surgery than hanging out in the staff room with George Clooney and Noah Wyle--but for the industrious it's a fascinating glimpse of pre-HMO medicine. --Barrie Trinkle


"Crichton writes superbly" Chicago Tribune --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't expect ER April 29 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
You will probably have the wrong impression of what this book consists of before you read it; I did. Some may think, or hope, that it is an ER-type medical thriller. It is not. Some, as I did, may think that it takes the cases of five individual patients and goes into a detailed description of how they were treated and cured. It does not. What the book actually does consist of is a series of five separate medical cases that are used to illustrate larger aspects of the hospital in general. The five cases average about 30 pages apiece, with about 4 or 5 pages of that going into the actual details of the case. The book is somewhat interesting: it goes into detail about the inner workings of a hospital that those outside of the medical profession probably know next to nothing about. This glimpse into the academic medical community is informative and makes for fairly interesting reading. The writing is dry and formal, often quite technical, which will, no doubt, turn off those who read Crichton merely for his page-turning suspense. Though the book has its merits, as mentioned above, one is ever aware, while reading it, that the book was written in 1969. Though some points of it are still valid and interesting, and Crichton's writing is always worth reading, it is inescapably quite outdated. One may get the most out of it by using it as a snapshot of how medicine was 30+ years ago. Of course, at any rate, this is a minor work in Crichton's canon. Reccommended only for hard-core fans of the author and perhaps medical historians looking for an objective look at medicine during the late 60's.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Informational Novel July 2 1999
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I am an enourmous fan of the TV show ER. Everyone knows that Michael Crichton created ER so when i finally found a copy of Five Patients, (the book is extremly hard to find), I quickly grabbed it off the shelf and bought it. I thought that it would be like reading an episode of ER. Boy was a wrong, but wrong in a good way. For each patient Crichton takes up between 45-60 pages. Only 10-12 of those pages are about the patient themself. The rest is information, not on medicine, but how the hospital has changed throughout the years. From surgery to cost to medicine itself. I enjoyed the information tremendously. And as anyone who reads my reviews knows, sometimes I'm not a big fan of an entire novel being informational.(Congo) But Five Patients is different. It taught me stuff about the hospital I didn't know, and added on to the stuff I already knew. However by the final patient, Edith Murphy, the information was something I already knew so that took a little away. But only a little. By reading this book, I can see my I enjoy ER so much. It's the best show on television in my opinion. Five Patients is true nonfiction work.
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3.0 out of 5 stars In Depth Look at Hospitals.... Sept. 13 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
... is exactly what you will get with 'Five Patients' by Michael Crichton.
I hadn't read any reviews when I picked up this book; I doubt I would have read it as deeply as I did if I would have read some. Basically, the book was written originally in the late Sixties to show the pros and cons of Hospitals from various angels - from the training of Doctors to the technology advancements made in the field.
It is interesting to compare what hospitals were like back then to the modern day hospital.
Overall, it is an interesting read, but don't be expecting any action, that is not what this book is about.
And on a side note, remember to check the glossary in the back. After I stumbled over some tricky words, I started to use it often once I discovered it - halfway through the book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not a must for Crichton fan, but still a good book April 18 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I was somehow misled by the title. I thought I was going to read five short stories of how doctor can treat (miraculously) five difficult patients, those I would read in Reader's Digest. But no, indeed I was surpised that those five patients are only mentioned in 1/5 of the book. The rest 4/5 of the book are talking about everything about hospital - its history, budget, organizational structure, politics, teaching versus community hospital, surgeon, urine, anaesthesia.....
I find most of these medical topics are interesting, though some are somewhat outdated. Also, I admire Mr. Crichton's writing skill to interweave these different topics together in a 200-page book.
My recommedation - do not treat it as a fiction. It is not that a waste of time (onlyl 200 pages!!)
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2.0 out of 5 stars geared more for medical professionals Sept. 2 2002
By C. Hill
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I expected this to be more of a "medical thriller," something like ER in a book. But it wasn't anything like that. It's an analysis of hospitals written over 30 years ago. Some parts of the book are informative, but even though Crichton doesn't use a lot of fancy medical jargon, I think people in the medical profession would get far more out of this book than the average lay person. I've read many of Crichton's other books, but this one isn't anything like his others, so don't expect a thrilling page-turner if you read this book.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A Serious Let-Down Aug. 14 1998
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I was very disappointed in this book after reading some of Michael Crichton's books. This is, of course, a very different type of book, but it was very drab. I'm really interested in medicine, but the book was way over my head when it came to the terminology. It has also been about 20 years since it was written so a lot has changed in the profession. I couldn't even get through the book. Perhaps someone in the medical profession would find it a little more exciting.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars AN ENORMOUS WASTE OF TIME
This book is nothing more than dry reading all the way. I got nothing against hospital histories ( I bought the book, after all !! Read more
Published on Jan. 9 2001 by Gergellor
1.0 out of 5 stars CRICHTON's WORST BOOK EVER
Anyway you look at it, this is the worst book by Michael Crichton. Written in 1969, it's totally pointless, there's absolutely no conclusion about real prospects for the future of... Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2001 by Poverty
2.0 out of 5 stars IF it was not Crichton who wrote it ...
This book is a total flaw. The only reason someone who isn't a doctor would buy it is because it was written by Michael Crichton. I suspect even doctors will find it boring. Read more
Published on Jan. 5 2001 by PATHERSON
2.0 out of 5 stars Weird
It's plain clear that this book was published again, after twenty years, due to Crichton's amazing fame as writer and screenwriter. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2001 by M. Fonseca
1.0 out of 5 stars Not impressed.
I've read almost all of Crichton's books, but this one is my least favorite. I don't even remember if I finished it or not (that's how boring it was).
Published on Oct. 13 2000 by K. K. Lamberty
1.0 out of 5 stars Trite
As a young health care professional, I was eager to read this book to gain a perspective on how medicine has changed in the last 30 years. Read more
Published on Oct. 27 1999 by Charles Williamson
4.0 out of 5 stars I found this book gripping even after just the first chapter
I am only one chapter in to this magnificent (spelling, sorry) book and i love it. i have read almost every fitcion book Crichton has writtin know i can't wait to read the other... Read more
Published on Dec 5 1998
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