Cover Image: You Bet Your Life

You Bet Your Life

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Member Reviews

What a fascinating read and I was surprised how much of a page-turner this is! Given the theme of the podcast I co-host, I was really moved and inspired by the curiosity of the many people profiled in this book. Such curiosity led to major discoveries that improved health and dramatically reduced death and suffering. But such advances are challenging and oftentimes ultimate successes start with failures. Persistence is as important as the curiosity of those who embark upon these medical advances.  

Note: If you haven't been vaccinated yet against COVID-19 (Sars-cov-2), please do so if you have access to the vaccine in whatever community you live in. It's such an important step to protect yourself, your family, neighbors, colleagues, and the community where you live. I'm happily vaccinated and encourage others to get vaccinated, too!

Note: I voluntarily requested, read, and reviewed this book. Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for sending me a temporary digital advance reading copy/advance review (ARC) galley of this book in exchange for an honest review. As always, my opinions are my own and do not represent my co-host or the podcast. I request, read, and review many books prior to publication to explore possible future guests for the podcast. I wish we could interview the author of every one of these books because I'm so impressed by the creativity, thoughtfulness, and wisdom shared through the temporary books I get through NetGalley. I find the idea of simplifying any book into 1-5 stars to be quite silly and reductionist, so I don't participate in that game and instead, just give five stars to each book.
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With this book, Paul Offit takes us on a journey into medical history, showing that "virtually every medical breakthrough has exacted a human price."
The author uses the example of nine of modern medicine's greatest advances to draw lessons on "when and wether to accept new technologies", that is, tips on medical decision making, which is particularly relevant during the pandemic.

He shares these examples in a very enjoyable way, going further than a mere stating of facts, and presenting it in what felt to me like a set of short stories. 

It can get a little technical though, so I would recommend having a basic knowledge of science and medicine, or at least being okay with looking up a few things, although the author does a great job of simplifying.

Overall, it was an interesting and instructive read. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in medicine or enjoys a good non fiction book, as well as those who might be pondering over an important medical decision.

Thanks to Netgalley for giving me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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A fascinating look at the wild world of medical innovations, from blood transfusions to x-rays. Offit uses the frame of the COVID-19 pandemic to tell stories of experimentation and trial-and-error to find treatments for various diseases. This book will appeal to readers who enjoy medical mysteries, history, biography, and interesting nonfiction on any topic.
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I loved this book. Dr. Offit is a great writer and this book is almost impossible to put down. The chapters are short and again I fell into the trap of I’ll only read one more, which was never just one more. Dr. Offit provides a great discussion of risk, what it means and when it is worthwhile. He uses analogy to explain that there is a risk to doing something, for example, getting a vaccine and a risk of not doing anything like not getting a vaccine but getting a disease instead. He walks through many areas of medicine and the history of medicine in a conversational tone, explaining all the science as he goes along. The timing of this book is excellent given that, at this time, we are in the COVID-19 pandemic and he addresses this in his book. But the book covers much more than just this and, like all his other books, is well worth reading. Thank you to Netgalley and Perseus Books, Basic Books for the advance reader copy.
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You Bet Your Life is a nonfiction book where physician Paul Offit takes a walk through America’s medical history.  He examines life saving medical breakthroughs, who developed them, and the risk that they involved to work out the kinks.  Offit specifically wrote this book because he wants his readers to consider what accepting a COVID-19 vaccine means for our country and for us individually.

I found this book to be really engaging.  Offit is an excellent writer.  He takes a topic that could be really dry and keeps the reader interested by telling stories.  I learned quite a bit from this book.  It also helped me to a greater understanding of what I think and believe about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

This book also increased my awe and respect for dozens of men and women who have applied their curiosity and creativity toward discovering new ways to advance medicine for the good of mankind.  This book is full of heros who were willing to try and experiment in order to help their fellow man.

If you are questioning whether or not you should get the vaccine, I believe that this book (while it does not specifically address issues surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine) will lead you to understanding what you personally need to do.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an inquisitive mind or is dealing with chronic health issues that keeps them involved with the medical community.

Thank you to NetGalley and Perseus Books, Basic Books for the complimentary copy of this book.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Paul A. Offit, M.D. is Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  Dr. Offit is also the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology, and a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.  He has published more than 130 papers in medical and scientific journals in the areas of rotavirus-specific immune responses and vaccine safety and is a co-inventor of a rotavirus vaccine.  He was previously a member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is the author of multiple books.

Each chapter of the book deals with a different medical breakthrough such as organ transplants, blood transfusions, anesthesia, x-rays, chemotherapy, gene therapy, and the topic of today, vaccines.  Dr. Offit gives us historical background on each subject, which didn’t always start out well.  The chapter culminates in the success the medical community is now experiencing with each of these treatments.



I found the book fascinating, thought-provoking and disturbing at turns.  Let's take the controversy surrounding the polio vaccine.  First, the Salk vaccine was initially tested at the D. T. Watson Home for Crippled Children and the Polk State School, which housed intellectually disabled boys and men.  It sounds so uncivilized and cruel by today’s standards.  Second, there were 200,000 children in the U.S. that received the vaccine in which the process of inactivating the live virus proved to be defective.  Reports started coming in of paralysis with 40,000 cases of polio confirmed.  In the end, 200 children were left with paralysis, 10 died and use of the vaccine was immediately halted.  Yet polio was deadly, leaving hundreds paralyzed or dead each year, so would the outcome have been any different?  The Sabin vaccine was introduced which used inactivated poliovirus, however, there is a 1 in 2.4 million chance that you could receive a vaccine that mutates to natural poliovirus.  Do you take that chance?  I guess we’re lucky our parents thought it was worth the risk as the U.S. is now polio-free.  And we should be thanking the Watson Home and Polk State School patients for their part in this.  As Dr. Offitt says, “nature reveals its secrets slowly, grudgingly, and often with a human price.”

The chapter on chemotherapy was educational.  I had no idea that chemotherapy’s roots began with mustard gas in World War I.  Again, just fascinating reading and I hope you find it as educational as I did.

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I really enjoyed reading historical evolution of medical practices. 
It's full of fascinating stories. Because of this it felt like a quick read. 

Though, here and there some of the sentences repeat twice or more. It's needs little more editing!
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This was a really interesting read, even though I knew some of what is written here, I found it so awesome to have a book with all of this together.
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Thank you Netgalley and Publishers for this digital ARC.

This book was interesting even not being a usual nonfiction reader. While I learned somethings I hadn't understood previously about the COVID-19 pandemic, I wasn't expecting it to be a part of this book. The book as a whole explores topics that the general public really only know at a surface. The only con I would see, is like many references before it, this could eventually become slightly outdated especially with the key notes of the recent pandemic having constant new advancements in the field of medicine.
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I loved this story of medical history. Ranging from the beginnings of X-Rays to gene therapy, this book is full of stories that teach you a lot about the development of medical science and that sometimes things go wrong.
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Startling Look At (Mostly Relatively Recent) Medical History. I consider myself a fairly well-read guy who is fairly knowledgeable about a *very* wide range of topics. Here, Offit shares stories of medical breakthroughs - including several which are now literally every day occurrences - and how the initial days of these breakthroughs weren't always so routine. Indeed, many of the stories Offit shares about these breakthroughs - some of which were still being litigated within the last decade - are quite horrific, both from the practitioners really not understanding what they were doing and in some cases when they *did* know what they were doing - and did it anyway. Including one tale in particular about the (now) famous Jonas Salk himself that was quite disturbing to read. In the end, the book does exactly what it sets out to do - shows that there is always inherent risk in any medical procedure, particularly novel ones, and that often times it is those whose lives will be cut short with or without the procedure that take the risks that ultimately reduce those risks for later people and indeed enhance the lives of people they will never know many years down the line. And yes, all of this is wrapped around the current debate over the COVID-19 vaccines - though while these are discussed, they are not actually a core component of the text itself. The discussion here is current circa early November 2020 and is slightly outdated even as I read the text in early February 2021 - and certainly will have advanced even further by the time of the book's actual publication in mid September 2021. Ultimately a truly fascinating read that is equally disturbing and enlightening, this book is very much recommended.
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