Wrongful Death: A Memoir

Wrongful Death: A Memoir

by Sandra M. Gilbert
     
 

“A loving eulogy . . . a powerful and wrenching book.” —Los Angeles Times
On February 10, 1991, Elliot Gilbert, a sixty-year-old professor of English, checked into a major medical center for routine prostate surgery. Twenty-four hours later, he was pronounced dead in the recovery room. To this day, no one from the hospital has told his family

Overview

“A loving eulogy . . . a powerful and wrenching book.” —Los Angeles Times
On February 10, 1991, Elliot Gilbert, a sixty-year-old professor of English, checked into a major medical center for routine prostate surgery. Twenty-four hours later, he was pronounced dead in the recovery room. To this day, no one from the hospital has told his family how or why he died. In Wrongful Death his widow has produced a searingly frank account of one family's experience with a kind of medical disaster that occurs surprisingly often but is all-too-rarely discussed in a political arena dominated by concerns about the escalating costs of malpractice insurance. As her story unfolds, Sandra Gilbert describes the numbing shock into which she and her children were plunged by her husband's inexplicable death as well as the stages of grief they endured as they struggled to come to terms with their loss. But her major focus is on the process of discovery through which, with the help of friends and lawyers, they began to learn something about what had happened to Elliot. What are the implications of such a medical tragedy for the deceased and for his survivors? How does it feel to confront the possibility that a loved one has suffered what the law calls a "wrongful death"? As she examines the bewildering complexity of the legal, social, and medical questions surrounding "adverse events" like the one that killed her husband, Gilbert shows how vulnerable we all are to the power of the health-care establishment.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``Because my husband, superb storyteller though he was, could not tell his own story, I have had to tell his story for him.'' This powerful memoir revisits and examines the 1991 death of poet and feminist scholar Gilbert's (No Man's Land) husband Elliot following prostate cancer surgery at the University of California Davis Medical Center. She and her family, suspecting medical negligence, engaged a lawyer and investigated the circumstances of the death; in 1992 they settled their lawsuit out of court. The memoir recounts the events preceding Elliot's death and leading up to and beyond the legal resolution. But its power lies in the writer's anger and her grief, and in her all-consuming determination: her book is a moving and extended meditation on moral obsession. It is also about the strained but stalwart emotional resources of a family. And it's a book likely to reach a broad readership among those who are increasingly suspicious of the medical establishment or who have suffered an abrupt loss like the author's. She is a professor of English at the University of California, Davis, as was her husband. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Gilbert (coauthor, with Susan Gubar, of the three-volume No Man's Land, LJ 11/1/87; LJ 3/1/89; LJ 10/1/94) brings the intelligence and sensitivity of her distinguished literary scholarship to this account of her and her family's reaction to the shattering "adverse event" that caused her husband to bleed to death following routine prostate surgery at a major California teaching hospital. The callousness and secretiveness of the surgeon and hospital staff compounded the family's tragedy and, not surprisingly, led to claims of malpractice. The legal search for truth and accountability forms the book's central drama and offers a telling perspective on the often demonized field of medical malpractice. A compelling medical mystery, a passionate meditation on love and grief, and a sobering reminder of the transience of life; highly recommended for most libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/94.]-Kathy Arsenault, Univ. of South Florida at St. Petersburg Lib.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393315165
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
03/17/1997
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)

What People are saying about this

David Lodge
A remarkable book. Once you start it you won't want to put it down, and afterwards you won't easily forget.

Meet the Author

Sandra M. Gilbert has published numerous volumes of criticismas well as collections of poetry and a memoir. She is coeditor (with Susan Gubar) of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women and a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle’s Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. A Distinguished Professor of English emerita at the University of California, Davis, she lives in Berkeley, California.

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