Natural Causes Book Summary - Natural Causes Book explained in key points
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Natural Causes summary

Barbara Ehrenreich

An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer

2.7 (93 ratings)
15 mins

Brief summary

'Natural Causes' by Barbara Ehrenreich explores the cultural obsession with extending life and questions whether the pursuit of eternal youth is worth sacrificing quality of life. It offers a thought-provoking perspective on aging and death.

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    Natural Causes
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    Doctors continue screening elderly patients for one reason: profit.

    The author, Barbara Ehrenreich, is 76 and, in recent years, she’s stopped getting regular medical check-ups. Many people – especially those in their 70s – might think this is irresponsible behavior. Despite having health insurance, she no longer undergoes smear tests, cancer screenings or yearly exams.

    So why has she thrown caution to the wind? Well, Ehrenreich believes that, after the age of 75, getting medically tested doesn’t make sense.

    She would rather use her time doing enjoyable things, rather than going in for time-consuming tests, waiting anxiously for the results and possibly having to consider medical interventions.

    For instance, she stopped getting mammogram screenings, a medical test that checks for signs of breast cancer. Ehrenreich made this decision after she got a false-positive test result that made her anxious for weeks – so anxious, in fact, that she also got pulled over and ticketed for “distracted driving.”

    In Ehrenreich’s view, once you’ve entered the late stages of life, it’s best to let nature run its course. Making dramatic lifestyle changes to accommodate medical treatment, be it surgery or chemotherapy, might simply no longer be worth it.

    Now, Ehrenreich stopped going in for mammograms around the age of 70, so imagine her surprise when she learned, while at a medical meeting, that a 100-year-old woman was still being screened. Why, Ehrenreich wondered – are women over the age of 75 still getting mammograms?

    Well, according to Ehrenreich, the main reason is pretty simple: medical screenings and tests profit doctors.

    To make financial gains, the health sector provides examinations that will inevitably show the possibility of a complication or necessitate a follow-up appointment. This is made possible with new, high-resolution equipment, such as CT scans, which assess head injuries and detect tumors. Better technology that is able to detect abnormalities leads to more tests, which in turn leads to more prescriptions and further visits to the doctor. All of these steps accumulate to increase the overall profit of the health industry.

    In the author’s view, doctors don’t only target the elderly with potentially unnecessary examinations; new parents are also vulnerable to unnecessary interventions. Let’s move on to the business of childbirth.

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    What is Natural Causes about?

    Natural Causes (2018) reveals the truth behind the medical world’s encouragement of common procedures, treatments and screenings. It scrutinizes why Western society is averse to aging and obsessed with exercising, and, along the way, explores the effects of modernity on our mental capabilities.

    Natural Causes Review

    Natural Causes by Barbara Ehrenreich (2018) offers a thought-provoking exploration of our obsession with eternal youth and the health industry's exploitation of our fear of death. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It presents a refreshing perspective on the pursuit of longevity and questions the societal norms surrounding health and wellness.
    • With a mix of scientific research, personal anecdotes, and cultural observations, it challenges readers to critically examine their own beliefs about health and mortality.
    • The book's unapologetic honesty and philosophical insights provide a captivating reading experience that will leave you questioning your own mortality.

    Best quote from Natural Causes

    Disturbingly, breast biopsies, which are many times recommended after a mammogram, increase the risk of breast cancer.

    —Barbara Ehrenreich
    example alt text

    Who should read Natural Causes?

    • People over the age of 60
    • Those interested in the social influence of modern medicine
    • People who spend a lot of time concerned about their health

    About the Author

    Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of the New York Times best-selling Nickel and Dimed, which is an exposé of low-paying jobs in America. She also holds a PhD in cellular immunology.

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    Natural Causes FAQs 

    What is the main message of Natural Causes?

    Understanding the limits of our bodies and questioning the pursuit of eternal youth.

    How long does it take to read Natural Causes?

    The reading time for Natural Causes varies. However, you can read the Blinkist summary in just 15 minutes.

    Is Natural Causes a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Natural Causes is a thought-provoking read that challenges societal norms and invites self-reflection.

    Who is the author of Natural Causes?

    Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of Natural Causes.