Morton’s Fork Book Review
In the interest of full-disclosure, Dr. Coy provided me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. You can read more about the author here.
I just finished reading Dr. Dale Coy’s fictional work, Morton’s Fork: A Doctor’s Dilemma, and it was probably one of the most thought-provoking books I have read this year. The title refers to a choice between two equally unpleasant options, otherwise known as a Morton’s Fork. Throughout the course of the book, Dr. Roger Hartley, our protagonist, is faced with plenty of these tough decisions.
The events of this book are put into motion when a disgruntled, noncompliant patient sues Dr. Hartley for $5 million dollars in a frivolous lawsuit. Something finally snaps in Hartley, and a rash action threatens his family life, practice, house, and life-savings. I don’t want to give away too much, but somewhat unwillingly, Dr. Hartley also becomes the poster-boy for tort reform in healthcare.
For those who don’t know (and I didn’t really), a tort is a civil wrong. As Wikipedia puts it: “Tort law deals with situations where a person’s behavior has unfairly caused someone else to suffer loss or harm. A tort is not necessarily an illegal act but causes harm.” What is perhaps a little scary is that as a future physician I most certainly will be named a defendant in such a suit. In fact, a 2011 article in the New England Journal of Medicine “estimated that by the age of 65 years, 75% of physicians in low-risk specialties had faced a malpractice claim, as compared with 99% in high-risk specialties.”
Obviously this topic affects me and my future, so Morton’s Fork was an easy read. I really enjoyed Dr. Coy’s writing; as he is sticking up for physicians. There is so much pressure on doctors these days in healthcare: the threat of being sued for malpractice, putting patient satisfaction surveys above good/affordable medicine, and fighting with insurance companies for compensation (just to name a few). This book puts into perspective what these pressures can do to a good man and good doctor. I particularly liked Dr. Hartley’s stance on malpractice. He says, “One hundred percent accuracy for doctors is an impossible dream. Medical mistakes are inevitable…If the system were fair, doctors would have little quarrel when reasonable settlements rectified our mistakes.”
However the book isn’t without some faults. I know it is a fictional work, but in my opinion some of the events and circumstances seem a bit unrealistic. Also, Dr. Coy presents a slightly right-wing perspective on the current state of healthcare in the United States (the “bad-guys” are Democrats). I am not an expert or even close to informed enough to know what party or politicians are responsible for the state of malpractice laws, but I do know it will take a bipartisan effort to reform it.
I start medical school in less than 3 weeks. Morton’s Fork was an eye-opener for me. I think that if you are considering the medical field it is worth your time. The book is informative but also entertaining. I found myself cheering for the Hartley family throughout the work. Last, but certainly not least, this story has shown me the importance of taking care of myself and my family ahead of my career. I don’t ever want to burn out, or be jaded by the medical system like Dr. Hartley. I loved Dr. Coy’s recurring theme that a happy doctor is a better doctor.