It was a mistake to finish reading André Picard’s Matters of Life and Death in a few evenings, because each story should be read and reflected on slowly, one-by-one. The stories, which are slightly reworked versions of previously published columns, have been arranged into 14 chapters, each dealing with a different topic important to Canadians and their health. Top
Describing the topics of each chapter in this short review, or even focusing on a few favorite stories, would do disservice to the book. The first chapter on Canadian health care itself is, perhaps, the most interesting as it pertains to all of us. Top
Surprisingly, none of the tweets and reviews of the book have mentioned the introduction. In it, Picard highlights shortcomings in health reporting, and he warns us to be wary about interpreting health-related news stories and trying to distinguish between truth and half-truth or lies. He suggests that story selection, “black-and-white” reporting, and disproportionate attention influence patients’ and consumers’ perceptions. Top
He also points out the journalistic world’s obsession with acute care and technology with little attention to low-key, long-term actions that have an effect on a much larger scale. He adds that the lack of critical thinking and content or source analysis further distorts our vision of reality. The warnings voiced in the intro contrast sharply with Picard’s own style: he researches his topics thoroughly, reflects on them, adds his own lens, and then delivers stories in an understandable, non-partisan, and balanced fashion. Top
This is simply a must-read for everyone who is part of the Canadian health system. That means every Canadian. We believe that our health care system is part of our identity. We also know that it needs to change and improve, but many of us don’t know what needs to change, and we end up arguing in opposite directions. That is why, as a start, we all need to read Matters of Life and Death, reflect on it, generate conversations, and take action for change. Without such conversations and changes, our health system is not sustainable. Thank you, André Picard, for giving us your columns to start these conversations.
Johny Van Aerde, MD, MA, PhD, FRCPC, is editor-in-chief of the Canadian Journal of Physician Leadership and past-president of the Canadian Society of Physician Leaders
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