Monday, February 1, 2010

Book Review: You Bet Your Life!: The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes

I am pleased that my first book review is on a publication by patient advocate Trisha Torrey. You Bet Your Life!: The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes (How to Fix Them to Get the Health Care You Deserve) is an excellent book with useful information on how to understand the medical system and advocate for oneself.

In particular, Torrey focuses on the most common mistakes patients make, such as taking a doctor's word as Gospel truth and believing the myth that all doctors put their patients' needs first. This honest assessment of the medical system dispels many myths about this system working for the patient. Torrey tells the truth about how many doctors and hospitals are more motivated by money than the health of the patient.

The truth is sobering, but Torrey has the courage and conviction to tell it.

In addition, the author explains the behind-the-scenes action of physician and hospital decision making. Each chapter sheds light on the medical system and how patients can work within it to ensure the best possible medical care.

All the outstanding chapters give us a glimpse into the medical world. For example, Torrey discusses at length how hospital stays are fraught with dangers, dispelling the often-held belief that they are safe havens. I could really relate, as she discusses how hospitals go on a kind of hiatus at around 5 p.m., leaving the workers with the least experience on the evening and night shifts. This was true during each of my hospital stays.

And let me tell you: my hospital stays were hell because of this very phenomenon.

One of the book's many strengths involves sharing how empowered patients handle the medical system. Torrey creatively refers to empowered patients as "empatients." She gives ample instances of how empatients make medical decisions and handle medical personnel. The author discusses at length how patients can become more empowered in making informed medical decisions.

Torrey first became an empatient in 2004 when she was misdiagnosed with cancer and told by a physician that if she didn't start chemotherapy right away, she would only have months to live. She did research, found errors in her medical records, and -- to the doctor's dismay -- sought a second opinion. Turns out, she did not have cancer, and had she listened to the first doctor and had chemotherapy, it would have been a huge mistake.

Trisha Torrey has a popular blog, where she regularly discusses patient empowerment and the medical system. We are lucky to have Torrey to give well-needed advice and information about current medical news. You can purchase the book through

Beth L. Gainer is a professional writer and has published numerous academic and magazine articles, as well as an essay on her breast cancer experience in the anthology Voices of Breast Cancer by LaChance Publishing. She writes about a potpourri of topics, including motherhood and her Chinese adoption experience at, and her cat Hemi blogs at Beth teaches writing and literature at Robert Morris University in the Chicago area. She has a guest posting on The World's Strongest Librarian at

She can be contacted at and