August 9, 1985

Matters of Life and Death: Risks vs. Benefits of Medical Care

Author Affiliations

Battelle Human Affairs Research Centers Seattle


by Eugene D. Robin, 205 pp, 15 illus, $21.95, paper $11.95, New York, WH Freeman & Co Publishers, 1984.

JAMA. 1985;254(6):835-836. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360060139050

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


This is an unusual book. The author, a physician, proclaims "this is a book for patients, not for doctors." If his advice is heeded, he will have done his own profession a disservice. This book should be read by doctors, as well as by patients.

The purpose of this book, explicitly stated by the author, is as follows: "To alert you to the risks and benefits of medical diagnosis and therapy." Indeed, throughout the book the author encourages the patient to carefully weigh the risks and benefits involved in health care provision. To assist in the making of informed decisions, the author urges us to identify an "ombudsdoctor," who is a physician serving as the advocate and representative of the patient in medical encounters. From the author's perspective, patients must take a more active role in their own care because "every doctor is frequently uncertain and frequently wrong. As a