A SPECIALIST surgeon who lectures in Harvard and writes for the New Yorker, Atul Gawande wondered why some doctors, hospitals and health systems performed so much better than others.
Winging it doesn't work, he says: what works is scorecards, attention, and rigorous, written detail.
Virginia Apgar devised a scorecard with points for newborns moving all four limbs, crying, turning rosy, and heart rate in the 1950s. When it was used, infant mortality plunged. Her scorecard is today used worldwide.
Gawande sees 4.2m children vaccinated against polio in three days. He reports a childbirth as it goes wrong. He probes malpractice suits. He explains why doctors don't wash their hands - though they know it saves lives.
He meets Warren Warwick, who invented a massage jacket to punch the phlegm out of the chests of cystic fibrosis patients who live alone, and even teaches patients a new cough.
Gawande examines the disgusting details of deaths by execution, talks to a millionaire doctor, finds out why half-completing operations on the battlefield saves Americans' lives in Iraq.
One of the most fascinating books you'll ever read, it's the perfect gift for your favourite doctor.