Reach & Read: Blind Eye and The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

Two books off the famed book list from my MHA law professor (see the December review of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks).

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death by Jean-Dominique Bauby and Jeremy Leggatt

A short but powerful memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby, a successful man by many measures. Jean-Dominique suffers a rare stroke leaving him completely paralyzed except for his left eye lid, locked in syndrome. With a fully intact mind, he painstakingly dictates his experiences and memories, one letter at a time, via a process termed partner assisted scanning. This book is beautifully written but heart wrenching – really makes you appreciate what you have but also written in a way that the reader can spend some time wonder wandering, contemplating what they might do in a similar situation. There is also the twist of fate as he thinks about his own father in the days before his stroke.

Apparently it took more than 200,000 blinks to write this book and about two minutes per word. Originally written in French, the English translation feels just a rich and thoughtful. His descriptions of food and taste memories are enough to make you salivate, until you are realize that he was surviving solely on nutrition (not even food) via tube. So, where does the title come in to play? The diving bell is his steel trap of a body, the butterfly his imagination and memories.

Plan on setting aside a couple hours to read this memoir cover to cover. Bring tissues, a cup of tea and a quilt too. When you finished the book, watch the movie, available here.

Blind Eye: The Terrifying Story Of A Doctor Who Got Away With Murder By James B. Stewart

Very intriguing and chilling story about just what the title says: a doctor who got away with murder. Concerning that it happened in the not too distant past but reassuring as I think SOME of the loop holes and cultural norms that allowed Michael Swango to continue to practice medicine and harm people have disappeared or at least attenuated. The book itself is a slower read, very factual (as it should be) and I would recommend that if you are interested you just watch the 1986 20/20 episode on it instead or visit or for the details. Didn’t save your VHS copies of 20/20 from the 80s? Never fear – here are few quick video clips about Dear Doctor Swango.

So what else is on this great medical law and ethics reading/viewing list?

  • Cutting for Stone – Abraham Varghese
  • Healing of America – TR Reid
  • Overtreated – S. Brownlee
  • If Disney Ran Your Hospital – Fred Lee
  • Contagion (movie) – Soderbergh
  • Sick Around the World – TR Reid
  • Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Skloot


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