Before I put patients to sleep for their colonoscopies, I ask if they have any questions. Many comically reply, “Doc, what’s the meaning of life?”
I always reply that their question cannot be answered because there is no one meaning to life, but instead the question should be, what gives meaning to their individual life?
In the first half of In The End, five characters search for what gives meaning to their lives. They sort through issues such as religion, their relationship with God, homosexuality, abuse, loss of a loved one, ambition, economic disparity, and life after death.
What happens when you are admitted to the hospital as a patient, and the physician assigned to be your doctor has never seen you before and knows absolutely nothing about you?
Welcome to Medicine in the 21st century, where the results of having a Hospitalist instead of your own doctor can be disastrous.
Specialist Dr. Aaron Bernstein enters the world of the Hospitalist firsthand when he confronts a schizophrenic patient who – literally – is a ticking time-bomb.
Gabriel is having that nightmare again: the one in which he's trying to persuade son Ray not to take time off to pursue a girl in New York, but to realize his dream of completing medical school. It's a nightmare because Ray is actually dead from colon cancer, and this conversation was not limited to his dreams.
He's been angry with God and has questioned everything since his son's demise ("How could a wonderful, brave young man die at age twenty-four?"), with irony added because Ray's death was from a disease that lay in his physician father's area of expertise. Gabriel can't forgive himself for not being able to save his son, and the guilt and grief is ruining his life.
As Gabriel moves through Ray's life, death, and their relationship, readers learn there's more to Ray's world than cancer; and more to Gabriel's than being a doctor.
This isn't just a medical novel, however; it's a thriller that opens along the lines of Robin Cook; but with more social and psychological issues, which are explored in greater, more satisfying detail. Its progression from a seemingly singular experience to humanity's greatest catastrophe creates a fine cross-genre experience between medical novel, thriller, and sci-fi that keeps readers on their toes and neatly defies pat categorization.
From keeping a baby and a gay doctor's venture into coming out with patients and colleagues to gaining meaning from life by helping others, personal conundrums and experiences blends with new revelations about life and relationships in the face of death, winding nicely into a tale that takes off into space and features a probe of life that was once on Earth.
One doesn't anticipate the story line's move from the microcosm of a physician's experiences to the greater issues of extinction and interplanetary survival, but In the End does a fine job of providing many surprises about its real purpose and conclusions. It is a strong, compelling, multifaceted read that's perfect for those who like their stories unpredictable and thoroughly engrossing.
In the end, what matters isn't an individual life alone, but the entwined lives of millions and how they lived, loved, and, finally, let go.
D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer
Midwest Book Review
"The Hospitalist is a terrifying tale that takes readers deep inside the modern healthcare system, exposing the economic and professional forces destroying the ability of doctors to do their jobs. Michael Weisberg, a renowned physician for more than two decades, penetrates the thick walls of hospitals, doctors’ offices, law firms and insurance companies, exposing realities that have remained secret for too long. In the process, Weisberg lays bare the arrogance, aspirations, greed and foolishness tearing apart the quality of patient care. Anyone seeking treatment in a hospital must first read this book. "
Kurt Eichenwald – Author
Conspiracy of Fools
500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars
Serpent on the Rock
Writer for Vanity Fair & Newsweek
Although The Hospitalist is fiction, its premise and tension offers much food for thought about the modern healthcare system as it combines a social commentary with insights on how doctors become thwarted by medical systems.
Diagnostic challenges, a schizophrenic patient who is only one of a number of ticking time bombs, the rigors of being an overworked gastroenterologist, and doctors who never really take care of patients are all powerfully presented in a medical novel that satirizes medical practices, insurance processes, dreams corrupted by the medical field, and more.
One of the unexpected pleasures in The Hospitalist is that its back cover blurb suggests a Robin Cook-style thriller and medical mystery; yet readers who enter the story anticipating action and entertainment will instead find the action takes place on a different level than a thriller usually offers, with the entertainment quickly turning into a social inspection of the medical system and how physicians and patients navigate its complex corridors.
There's suspense, humor, numerous characters and special interest groups, pointed commentary, and powerful reflections on work, ethics, and choice throughout the story line. As Aaron faces the temptation to return to being a healer without all the financial and political pressures of being a physician, he asks and faces some hard questions about doctors, patients, and their regulated environments.
Anyone with an interest in the medical community will find The Hospitalist a different kind of read that doesn't dilute its impact with casual tension, but probes for the deeper cancer at the heart of organizational processes. By choosing a fictional format, The Hospitalist makes far more of an impact in exploring these various pressures and the real-world special interests affecting a wide range of doctors, patients, and those who interact with them.
D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer
Midwest Book Review
“The Hospitalist is provocative, revealing, and riveting… Weisberg has exposed how the patient-doctor relationship has changed in the modern age.”
- Doug Ross, author of Hard-Boiled