Snowball in a Blizzard: A Physician’s Notes on Uncertainty in Medicine
by Steven Hatch
Basic Books, 2016 $27.99
Uncertainty lies at the heart of modern medicine in ways that most physicians—not to mention their patients—often fail to recognize. Fundamental imperfections in our understanding of health and disease limit doctors' ability to combat illness. Hatch, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, argues that physicians who ignore this uncertainty often overtreat their patients, resulting in sometimes harmful, even fatal consequences.
By the same token, far too many patients assume that more medical care is always better than less, thereby seeking or consenting to toxic treatments that trigger needless suffering. Hatch provides examples from such fields as breast cancer, cardiology and infectious disease. He also offers straightforward rules of thumb to help readers navigate medical advice.