North Lawndale, a neighborhood that lies in the shadows of Chicago’s Loop, is surrounded by some of the city’s finest medical facilities, Yet, it is one of the sickest, most medically underserved communities in the country.
Mama Might Be Better Off Dead immerses readers in the lives of four generations of a poor, African-American family in the neighborhood, who are beset with the devastating illnesses that are all too common in America’s inner-cities. Headed by Jackie Banes, who oversees the care of a diabetic grandmother, a husband on kidney dialysis, an ailing father, and three children, the Banes family contends with countless medical crises. From visits to emergency rooms and dialysis units, to trials with home care, to struggles for Medicaid eligibility, Laurie Kaye Abraham chronicles their access—or more often, lack thereof—to medical care. Told sympathetically but without sentimentality, their story reveals an inadequate health care system that is further undermined by the direct and indirect effects of poverty.
Both disturbing and illuminating, Mama Might Be Better Off Dead is an unsettling, profound look at the human face of health care in America. Published to great acclaim in 1993, the book in this new edition includes an incisive foreword by David Ansell, a physician who worked at Mt. Sinai Hospital, where much of the Banes family’s narrative unfolds.
About the Author
Laurie Kaye Abraham is a freelance writer and senior editor of New York Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
David A. Ansell, MD, is the senior vice president and associate provost for community health equity as well as the Michael E. Kelly Professor of Medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. He is the author of County: Life, Death, and Politics at Chicago’s Public Hospital.
“A provocative examination of our health care delivery for the poor. . . . Such an honest and candid account is essential if we are to seriously explore a restructuring of the health care system.”
— Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here
“Goes to the heart of today’s problem in just a few words: ‘Health care is treated as a commodity available to those who can afford it, rather than a public good.’ . . . Powerful . . . deeply searching.”
— Victor Cohn
“Abraham has done prodigious research, and her grasp of the [Banes] family’s dizzying ride is formidable. . . . A powerful indictment of the big business of medicine.”
— Los Angeles Times
“Abraham doesn’t pretend to have the answers—but she illuminates the problems with passion and skill.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“This personally observed, lucid chronicle and call for reform of our ailing health system covers all levels of responsibility in the medical establishment, and deserves scrutiny by our administration’s health service planners.”
— Publishers Weekly
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