Wednesday, April 1, 2009
The Neurology of Angels tells the story of three people and their struggles with the American health care system. Years ago, Galen Douglas lost his fiancée to a series of strokes. In a desperate attempt to heal himself of his heartache, the neurologist began to formulate a medicine that will help others avoid his fiancée's fate. When he invents a viable medicine for the treatment of ischemic stroke victims, he must face endless red tape and bureaucratic dead ends in order to get the drug into the people's hands who most desperately need it to survive. Eddy Parker is a family man, living the American dream, when unexpected events lead him into the political arena with the intention of lowering the cost of prescription drugs and health care so that it becomes affordable for everyone. Eddy, like the people he represents, has a vested interest in seeing these issues resolved. Elizabeth Rose is a pharmaceutical industry lawyer facing the task of raising a terminally ill daughter, Sera, alone, after the death of her husband. As Sera grows from toddler to young adult, the clock is relentlessly ticking for someone to find the cure for her disease. Each of these people have a critical role in the battle between the executives, the government and the politicians who govern the modern health care system. This is a tale of the industry of illness and of those who must fight against that industry in order to change lives, one at a time.
This book was a very interesting peek into the major concerns of the American health care crisis that many face every day. Each avenue of the system was clearly and eloquently explored, right down to the frank information regarding the legislation that restricts citizens from purchasing drugs from other countries. The book clearly had a message, but it wasn't pushy or unreasonable in making its point. In a country where the laws and reforms are so complicated and many-faceted, this book did an incredible job of exploring the issues from each side, and even from the perspective of those caught in the middle.
In one section of the book, a character is faced with the choice of paying upwards of $50,000 for one dose of a medicine that has not been approved for off label use, or going without a treatment that is preventing her from having a stroke. The thought of this happening to me or someone I care about is frightening, yet all too real. I also thought the sections regarding the practical sides of the research and development of pharmaceuticals was extremely well done. The author really encompassed all the aspects of drug development, from the discovery right down to the marketing and clinical trials. She didn't shy away from portraying the controversies that go on in this area of science and development, and I truly appreciated that.
Although there were sections in the book that were heavy with scientific and political jargon, I felt that this actually added to the impact and the importance of the book, taking the story to a much more realistic and credible level. It was really impressive to read about the meshing of the medical, governmental, and personal sides of this issue in a way that fleshed out the whole picture. I think many readers will find that this book answers many questions they might have never known they had regarding the availability and cost of health care and medications.
I felt that the author really delved deep creating these characters, because although this was a book with a message, her characters came across as very genuine and were easy to sympathize with. Each character wore a different face of the same issue, but they were all struggling with their beliefs, values, and morals. I particularly liked Galen. He wasn't your typical entrepreneur/scientist. I found him to be a thoughtful and caring man, generous almost to a fault. He struggled endlessly in his quest for a cure: from it's earliest conception to it's final approval, Galen never let go of the dream he had to improve and even save the lives of others. Out of all the characters in this book, I think he was the most interesting and compelling, although he did struggle with many personal issues that tormented him.
Another thing I liked about this book was the way the stories of the three families intertwined. Some of the sections of the story involved a bit of coincidence, but I didn't think that it detracted from the story at all. I found the joining of all of the characters' fates was actually a brilliant move on the part of the author. It was a great way to show the how the singular players' decisions impacted people who were not necessarily in the characters' personal sphere. The best part of the book was the way the author explained and made a plot point of showing some of the alternative solutions to the real life problems that plague the health care system, particularly the inclusion of a fund that allows for bartering services in exchange for health care credits. I am not sure if this type of solution would work, or whether it is indeed feasible, but it is a very interesting idea that may one day shape the future of health care in this country.
I think that this is a very important book, written at a very important time. The impact of this book will depend considerably on its number of readers, and I feel that it should be read by many, if not for its touching story then for its intelligent commentary and its unflinching and honest look at the problems facing the uphill climb in our nation's health care future. It seems that there are no easy answers here, but this story raises the types of questions that each individual needs to be asking themselves, and the questions we need to be asking those in charge of our health systems.
Posted by Zibilee at 1:00 PM