Book Review: Beyond the Stethoscope, by Lucy Mayes

Available in bookshops nationwide

cv_beyond_the_stethoscope.jpgBeyond the Stethoscope features 25 doctors’ stories, including one by author Lucy Mayes’ husband. It is an unusual book, quite unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and it’s hard to know how to describe it.

The stories are from both male and female doctors predominantly from New Zealand and Australia (there are two overseas doctors also), and the stories are in some instances extremely personal. Some are beautifully written and a joy to read, but others are quite hard to follow and their narrative is not clear.

The book reads like a series of academic papers – each written by a doctor with a different viewpoint on an issue, even if there are some overarching themes that attempt to tie them all together. As each voice is different, it’s hard to get a cohesive whole and this is evident as you move from one story – and one style of care – to the next.

Several names are familiar (in fact one doctor was at my local practice a year or so back) and many stories are incredibly moving and enlightening. Medicine has changed so much in the past 50 years and it’s obvious it’s not just patients getting frustrated with waiting weeks for appointments and then having their concerns packaged into 10-minute slots. It’s quite confronting reading that the doctors don’t enjoy this style of care either, that they want to know more about their patients and assist their journey to wellness, not just treat the illnesses they present with.

As someone who has had great doctors and not so great doctors (and who is currently changing practices after being assigned her fifth doctor in seven months), it is heartening to hear that some doctors are fighting back and embracing other ways of treating patients. I hope their efforts catch on and the idea of wellness over illness becomes the norm – although sadly I don’t think the Chinese system where a doctor is paid to keep a patient well and not paid when they are ill will ever catch on here!

One of the most moving stories is actually by Mayes’ husband, Dr Richard Mayes. His caring nature is evident, and the demands placed on doctors quite horrifying. He’s very open about the pressures he faced and how he dealt with them and I hope his story inspires others to say ‘enough is enough, something must change’. I want to see a doctor who cares about my wellness and who tells me what I need to be doing to keep well. I don’t want to be dosed with pills when a recommendation to get more exercise and eat and drink healthily may be all that’s required to ‘cure’ my ills.

I finished this book after being discharged from a couple of days in hospital that resulted from being overprescribed antibiotics, so I’m keen to hear stories from doctors who care and want the system to be changed for the better. I hope if nothing else, this book will mean other voices will join them in calling out for change.

The fact some stories are very well written and others are not makes me wonder if Mayes interviewed each doctor and then typed up their notes or whether the stories were supplied ready to go. Either way, some judicious editing would have avoided instances where homophones mean the wrong words have been used and where words are missing from sentences.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

Beyond the Stethoscope – Doctors’ stories of reclaiming hope, heart and healing in medicine
by Lucy Mayes
Published by Heart Works Press
ISBN 9780648182726

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