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In this age of shortened office visits, doctors take care of their patients’ immediate needs and often elide their own personal histories. But as reflected in Broke, Michael Stein takes the time to listen to the experiences of his patients whose financial challenges complicate every decision in life they make. Stein asks his patients to tell him about their financial conditions not only to find out how to better treat them but also to bear witness to their very survival and the power of human resilience. Stein’s intimate vignettes capture these encounters, allowing his patients to offer profound, moving, and unguarded reflections about their struggles, sometimes in a single sentence.
Broke is a quietly passionate critique of a country that has grown callous to the plight of the poor, the tens of millions of people in the United States who live below the poverty line and who have no obvious path to security. Full of heartbreaking and surprising details and framed by a wry, knowing, and empathic humor, there is no other book that illuminates the experience of people facing economic hardship in this way.
Michael Stein, M.D., is professor of health law, policy, and management at Boston University.
“Broke is a powerful read, one full of surprising details, that provides a fascinating portrayal of medical patients and their relationship with poverty. Stein lifts up his patients’ voices so we can understand just what they have experienced, and his own voice is gentle, reflective, and empathetic. This is a book every doctor and patient should read.”—Belle Boggs, author of The Art of Waiting and The Gulf
“In this quietly passionate critique of a system that has grown callus and deaf to the plight of the poor, readers should expect honesty, no sugar coating. Michael Stein simply presents the heartbreaking words of his patients who face the reality of having to choose between getting medical treatments or paying their bills. The room he creates for these patients to say important, moving, relevant things to him will capture the imagination of every physician who reads this. I have never read a book that moved me more, as a physician, regarding the plight, courage, and creativity of patients.”—Raymond Barfield, MD, Duke University