The Trouble With Hospitals

To most minds, the hospital is no place to live and not even a good place to visit. But with the passing of the general practitioner, the rise of the specialist, and the astonishing advances in medical technology, the hospital has changed in the last few decades from the lugubrious house of last resort and lingering death into the control center of medical care in America. This year, admissions to the more than 7000 hospitals in the United States will approach 30 million; and with the coming of Medicare, the total will climb higher. In the following pages, a group of medical professionals and writers commissioned by theATLANTICexamine the American hospital system in its many dimensions.

A fine novelist makes almost painfully real theexperience of being a patient; another tells movingly of the disappearance of tender loving care. A veteran M.D. and hospital administrator tells why the bills are so high, and an economist suggests how the public may eventually be able to put the lid on costs. The doctor who runs one of the greatest of medical complexes brings the emergency ward alive; a medical editor surveys the contrast between what can be done and what is done to provide care to those who need it. The supplement tries not only to raise disturbing questions but to suggest some answers and to survey the scene through the eyes of those most involvedthe doctor, the nurse, the technician, the volunteer, the taxpayer, and above all, the patient. — THE EDITOR

CARTOONS BY FERNANDO KRAHN