Cover image for Dissident doctor : catching babies and challenging the medical status quo / Michael C. Klein, MD.
Dissident doctor : catching babies and challenging the medical status quo / Michael C. Klein, MD.
Publication Information:
Madeira Park, British Columbia : Douglas & McIntyre, 2018.

Physical Description:
xv, 288 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
610.92 KLE Book Adult General Collection

On Order



How often do you hear a doctor saying doctors need to be more accountable, Medicare needs more support and family medicine deserves more respect? Dissident Doctor bristles with refreshingly frank criticisms from inside the health sector, and its author is not just any doctor but a distinguished scientific researcher, veteran medical administrator, Professor Emeritus, recipient of the Order of Canada and lifelong gadfly.

In Dissident Doctor, Michael C. Klein intersperses fascinating tales of individual cases with formative elements of his personal life. As the son of American left-wing activists, he grew up singing folk songs about justice and racial equality; as a young doctor his refusal to serve as a military physician during the Vietnam War prompted his immigration to Canada. His early experience working with midwives in Ethiopia--delivering babies using techniques for natural pain relief and without routine episiotomy--were formative, leading him to question many standard but unjustified procedures in Western maternity care. He made many unconventional decisions as a result of his focus on humane medicine, transitioning from a specialization in pediatrics and newborn care to become a family physician, and embracing midwifery before it was approved in Canada. Klein's determination in the face of great opposition, the strength of his convictions, and his humility and sense of humour drive this powerful story of a life and career dedicated to his patients and his principles.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Klein, a retired family physician, recounts growing up as a "red diaper baby" in the 1940s U.S., his subsequent medical career, and other aspects of his life in this disappointing memoir. He cites his parents' pro-Soviet activism before WWII and their struggles during the McCarthy era, when his father could not find work and his mother took over as breadwinner, as a major influence on his life and particularly on his work as a doctor. He goes on to revisit formative student trips to Mexico and Ethiopia, his dilemma in 1966 upon submitting dual applications to the United States Public Health Service and to his local draft board as a conscientious objector, and his professional path to becoming a professor of family practice at the University of British Colombia. Halfway through the narrative, the focus shifts to the series of strokes that the author's wife suffered in 1987 and her subsequent recovery. Unfortunately, Klein does not expand upon the themes he raises, and the narrative resembles a chronologically arranged collection of vignettes more than a cohesive story. A dry tone and bland writing-"In 1963, having survived the preclinical years and beginning to taste the fun of clinical medicine, I decided to treat myself"-leaves the literary potential of an undoubtedly rich and rewarding life untapped. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. ix
Introductionp. xiii
1 A Bunch of Leftiesp. 1
2 Walt Disney Shapes Everythingp. 4
4 My Jewish Educationp. 12
5 The Red Scarep. 14
6 Implications of My Early Historyp. 20
7 Oberlin College and Preparing for Medical Schoolp. 23
8 Medical Schoolp. 27
9 The Stanford Clinical Yearsp. 33
10 Chiapas, Mexicop. 36
11 Ethiopia: A Turning Pointp. 47
12 Midwifery Influencesp. 55
13 Bringing It Homep. 65
14 Obstetrics Comes Back to Bite Mep. 71
15 Internship at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New Yorkp. 77
16 New Lovep. 81
17 Dr. Michael Klein versus the US Armyp. 83
18 Life in Canada Beginsp. 96
19 A Country Deeply Dividedp. 101
20 My Life as a Pediatric Resident in Montrealp. 105
21 Job Huntingp. 115
22 Vania Calls from Montrealp. 123
23 Family Practice Evolves in Rochesterp. 125
24 Return to Montrealp. 130
25 Teaching Family Practice Residents to Meet Community Needsp. 136
26 Herzl Doctors Expandp. 140
27 Oxford Sabbaticalp. 143
28 The Herzl Family Practice Maternity Group Is Bornp. 148
29 Bethune Visiting Professorp. 153
30 Birth: Why Do This Work When It Sounds So Exhausting?p. 156
31 Caring for the Religious Jewish Community of Montrealp. 159
32 The Joys, Dangers and Benefits of Family Practicep. 163
33 Episiotomy Surfaces Yet Againp. 166
34 Bonnie's Illnessp. 169
35 The Episiotomy Trialp. 173
36 Bonnie Beats the Oddsp. 179
37 Coming Homep. 185
38 Back Painp. 189
39 Making Trouble in Vancouverp. 194
40 Leaving Montrealp. 196
41 Unfinished Businessp. 201
42 My Last Montreal Birthp. 205
43 BC Women's and Children's Hospitalsp. 208
44 Anxiety Rulesp. 212
45 Organizational Shenanigans 101p. 217
46 "Too Posh to Push"p. 219
47 Attitudes Trump Evidencep. 224
48 Rural Maternity Carep. 230
49 Midwives and the Home Birth Demonstration Projectp. 238
50 Birth Rooms and Doulas Come to Vancouverp. 241
51 International Cooperation: It's Not All about Birthp. 244
52 Living with a Diagnosis: More System Failuresp. 247
53 My Mother's Deathp. 255
54 More Advocacy: Butting in Where You Have No Businessp. 258
55 Nothing Fails Like Successp. 260
56 Private For-Profit Carep. 263
57 Winding Downp. 268
Afterwordp. 271
Final Reflection: My Mentorsp. 276
Endnotesp. 277
Acknowledgmentsp. 280
Bibliographyp. 281
Indexp. 284