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Overtreated: Too Much Medicine Making Us Sicker and Poorer, Shannon Brownlee

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating


Updated July 07, 2008

Overtreated by Shannon Brownlee

Overtreated by Shannon Brownlee


The Bottom Line

American patients think the most expensive and extensive care, in the form of pharmaceutical drugs, miracle testing machines, replacement body part devices and surgical procedures, will improve their care and provide good outcomes. In fact, Shannon Brownlee proves that not only are these assumptions wrong, but they can also be dangerous.

This book is excellent in gaining an overview of the ills of a system that values money over lives and how too many patients fall prey to it.

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  • Excellent overview of why American healthcare is so dysfunctional
  • Showcases problems with statistics and studies, not just opinion
  • Readable and understandable, even to readers with no healthcare background


  • Does not provide specific tactics to help individuals improve their own care


  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • ISBN: 978-1582345802
  • Year Published: 2007
  • Hardover Price: $25.95
  • Softcover Price N/A
  • Book Details: 352 pages

Guide Review - Overtreated: Too Much Medicine Making Us Sicker and Poorer, Shannon Brownlee

Most Americans would agree that when health problems arise, we want the most advanced tests for diagnosis, the most extensive and expensive treatments, the most experienced specialists and (of course) the smallest price tag.

What most of us don't realize is that the "most" isn't always the best. In fact, what Brownlee shows is that, as a population, we are overtreated, making us sicker and apt to die quicker. Healthcare is predicated on how providers can earn their money and not based on the illness or treatment needs of patients.

Further, this pursuit of too much care costs us dearly with the loss of health and money.

Here are two examples:

  • The number of surgeries that take place in any particular geographic area is not based on the number of patients who need surgery; rather, it is based on how many surgeons work in that area. In Ft. Myers, Florida, (population 60,000+) the number of back surgeries is 60% higher than the number in Tampa, Florida, (population 2 million+). Too many surgeries lead to additional dangers in the form of infections and unnecessary costs.

  • CT scans cost American healthcare consumers millions, if not billions of dollars per year. Yet they have not improved many forms of diagnosis. Researchers reviewed the charts of 63,790 patients who had undergone appendectomies between the years 1987 and 1999. They anticipated the numbers of accurate diagnoses would improve through the use of CT scans; instead, they learned that the rate of misdiagnosis stayed consistent at around 15.5%.
There are dozens of examples such as these throughout Brownlee's book. She doesn't offer any particular ways patients can help themselves overcome the problems, but certainly, awareness is a good first step.
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