By Victoria Sweet, Riverhead Books, 2012
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Maybe you can remember a doctor in your youth making house calls, or maybe you’ve heard an older relative speak of those days.  

This book is not advocating a return to “those days” in any way but one:  seeing the art of medicine practiced in a way that respects the whole person, spending time intently watching and listening (like the midwives did at my home births).  She calls this Slow Medicine, and her hypothesis is that it “provides as good a medical outcome as does Modern Efficient Health Care, while being less expensive and more satisfying for patients, families, and staff.”

CR-DrVictoriaSweetThe author describes her experiences working at Laguna Honda, a San Franciscan hospital modeled after almshouses in the Middle Ages, which provided medical care for the chronically disabled. She also describes her studies of Hildegard of Bingen, a twelfth-century German mystic, theologian, and medical practitioner.  Hildegard’s holistic system was based on the four seasons, and their effects on plant, animal, and human life.

Dr. Sweet’s book speaks to my beliefs that health is created through a multitude of paths, including  – among other things –  good nutrition, fresh air and sunlight, and connection to the earth through gardening.

Her frequent, detailed and unblinking vignettes of patients’ stories are by turns dismaying,  touching, and always illuminating with respect to how she practices heart-based medicine.