By Victoria Sweet
Almshouses, or places of care for the sick, distressed and poor, date back to the 10th century. Many of the almshouses were Christian but secular ones were not unheard of. God’s Hotel is the story of Laguna Honda Hospital, the last almshouse in the United States.
Dr. Sweet takes a position at Laguna Honda while she works on a doctorate in medical history. Sweet happened to be interested in Hildegaard of Bingen, a nun and caregiver from the 12th century. Dr. Sweet’s studies and work at Laguna Honda taught her that the old ways of tending and caring for the body and soul were being lost in the medical community and that these old ways still had value. Medical technology and doctor specializations have brought miraculous advances and much comfort; however, one consequence of medical specialization is that we lose sight of the whole body, the mind and the soul. Working at Laguna Honda, Sweet realized she did not have the ready skills to evaluate a new patient from the ground up and she began to discover incorrect diagnoses from other doctors who lacked those skills as well.
As our aging population grows larger, finding a balance between medical technology and old-fashioned care is crucial. Understanding this balance is also part of the solution as we try to reduce medical costs and inefficiencies. Dr. Sweet adds an important voice to the healthcare conversation.
Reviewed by Lisa Newman www.lemuriabooks.com