Join us on Thursday, November 9th at 6:00 p.m. for Luke Messac, author of Your Money of Your Life, in conversation with Jay Baruch, author of Tornado of Life.
Your Money or Your Life: Debt Collection in American Medicine by Luke Messac
A riveting exposé of medical debt collection in America — and the profound financial and physical costs eroding patient trust in medicine
For the crime of falling sick without wealth, Americans today face lawsuits, wage garnishment, home foreclosure, and even jail time.
Yet who really profits from aggressive medical debt collection? And how does this predatory system affect patients and doctors responsible for their care?
Your Money or Your Life reveals how medical debt collection became a multibillion-dollar industry and how everyday Americans are made to pay the price. Emergency physician and historian Luke Messac weaves patient stories into a history of law, finance, and medicine to show how debt and debt collection are destroying the foundational trust between doctors and patients at the heart of American healthcare. The fight to stop aggressive collection tactics has brought together people from all corners of the political spectrum. But if we want to better protect the sick from financial ruin, we have to understand how we got here.
With wit and clarity, Your Money or Your Life asks us all to rethink the purpose of our modern healthcare system and consider whom it truly serves.
Luke Messac is an emergency physician and historian at Brigham and Women's Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. His research focuses on the history and political economy of health care. His work has been covered by The New York Times and published in The New England Journal of Medicine, and his first book, No More to Spend, was published by Oxford University Press in 2020.
Tornado of Life: A Doctor's Journey Through Constraints and Creativity in the ER by Jay Baruch
Stories from the ER: a doctor shows how empathy, creativity, and imagination are the cornerstones of clinical care.
To be an emergency room doctor is to be a professional listener to stories. Each patient presents a story; finding the heart of that story is the doctor’s most critical task. More technology, more tests, and more data won’t work if doctors get the story wrong. Empathy, creativity, and imagination are the cornerstones of clinical care. In Tornado of Life, ER physician Jay Baruch offers a series of short, powerful, and affecting essays that capture the stories of ER patients in all their complexity and messiness.
Patients come to the ER with lives troubled by scales of misfortune that have little to do with disease or injury. ER doctors must be problem-finders before they are problem-solvers. Cheryl, for example, whose story is a chaos narrative of “and this happened, and then that happened, and then, and then and then and then,” tells Baruch she is "stuck in a tornado of life.” What will help her, and what will help Mr. K., who seems like a textbook case of post-combat PTSD but turns out not to be? Baruch describes, among other things, the emergency of loneliness (invoking Chekhov, another doctor-writer); his own (frightening) experience as a patient; the patient who demanded a hug; and emergency medicine during COVID-19. These stories often end without closure or solutions. The patients are discharged into the world. But if they’re lucky, the doctor has listened to their stories as well as treated them.
Jay Baruch, a practicing emergency room physician, is Professor of Emergency Medicine at Alpert Medical School of Brown University and the author of two award-winning short fiction collections, What's Left Out and Fourteen Stories: Doctors, Patients, and Other Strangers.