Wrongful Death: A Medical Tragedy

Overview

"A wrenching tale of medical mistakes, death, shock, grief, and frustration, told with love and anger."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Sandra Gilbert's husband, Elliot, underwent surgery for prostate cancer at a major medical center, and then inexplicably died hours later in the recovery room. To this day, no one from the hospital has told his family how or why he died.

In February, 1991, Elliot Gilbert checked into the hospital ...

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Overview

"A wrenching tale of medical mistakes, death, shock, grief, and frustration, told with love and anger."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Sandra Gilbert's husband, Elliot, underwent surgery for prostate cancer at a major medical center, and then inexplicably died hours later in the recovery room. To this day, no one from the hospital has told his family how or why he died.

In February, 1991, Elliot Gilbert checked into the hospital for routine surgery. One day later, he was dead. Wrongful Death is a searingly frank and gripping account of his family's experience with a medical disaster that occurs often but is rarely discussed. It shows how vulnerable we all are to the power of the medical establishment.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
“An enduring contribution to the literature of grief.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Detail by detail, like a good murder mystery, Wrongful Death gains momentum steadily and barrels to a satisfying conclusion.”
Los Angeles Times
“Wrongful Death is, most of all, an unwavering, impassioned inquest as Gilbert attempts to determine the immediate cause of her husbands medical termination.”
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.
William Beatty
Despite first appearances, this is not a novel. Rather, it is a levelheaded, detailed account of the death of Elliot Gilbert, the author's husband, a college professor then 60. He had gone into the Medical Center of the University of California at Davis for a routine operation for prostatic cancer. Shortly after the operation, he died, apparently because hospital staff failed to adequately monitor his blood levels. Sandra tells how she and her daughters became suspicious when their questions were answered with obfuscation and lies. She called in lawyers, and after investigations and much backing and forthing, the two sides reached a settlement before trial. Sandra's account of her feelings and actions during the stressful process should have broad appeal for individual readers as well as discussion groups.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393037210
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/1995
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandra M. Gilbert has published numerous volumes of criticism, including, most recently, Death’s Door: Modern Dying and the Ways We Grieve, as well as eight 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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