Readers consistently make two comments after reading Doctor Vita: They couldn’t put it down, and they did not anticipate the twist at the end.
Doctor Vita is ideal for book club discussions because the novel describes the intersection of technology (already all around us) and our personal quest for a healthy life.
Before the book club, I recommend your members read an editorial I wrote in May 2019 in EC Anaesthesia.
Ponder these questions:
- How often do you look up medical information on the Internet to interpret your symptoms, or those of your family?
- Does the expansion of technology available to your healthcare provider, your clinic, or your hospital make you feel safer or more at risk?
- We interact with machines at the ATM, and we check out with Self Pay at the grocery store and at the gasoline pump. Many bank tellers, grocery clerks, and gas station attendants have lost their jobs. Self-driving cars and trucks may someday make taxis, Uber drivers and Teamsters obsolete. Can you envision this happening to doctors?
- Or do feel threatened by less contact with your office physician as she or he has their back to you while they read and type into a computer?
- Technology caused deaths in two Boeing 737 Max airline crashes, and in three Tesla self-driving automobiles. Would you trust a Doctor Vita unit with your healthcare?
- Which do you think is more likely to make a medical error, a human being, or a computer? Why?
- John Henry was a folklore hero who was said to have worked as a “steel-driving man”—a man who hammered a steel drill into rock to make holes for explosives to blast the rock in constructing a railroad tunnel. According to legend, his skill as a steel-driver was measured in a race against a steam-powered machine. He had a race against the machine, a race that he won only to die in victory with hammer in hand as his heart gave out. Doctor Vita poses human physicians versus AI physicians. Are the stories similar?
- It’s been 29 years since Michael Crichton wrote Jurassic Park, and we still don’t see genetically recreated dinosaurs roaming the Earth. Twenty-nine years from now we will see Doctor Vita units in medical facilities in the United States. True or false?
- Television shows and movies about medical care show human doctors spending lengthy periods of time solving the problems of just a few patients. In reality, human doctors are pushed to minimize the amount of time they spend with each patient, because of the expectation that they need to see dozens of patients each day. Do you notice that? Would that be better at a Doctor Vita Depot as described in the book?
- The final chapter of the book invokes a positive emotion between a human doctor and his patient. How much do you look forward to emotional experiences similar to that with your doctors?