Reviews of Hospitals and Health: Your Orthomolecular Guide to a Shorter, Safer Hospital Stay

Reviews of Hospitals and Health



"Hospitals and Health fits exactly into our philosophy of health and healing. I attribute much of my good health (at age 89) to my total avoidance not only of doctors but of hospitals. I am thoroughly interested in the work of Dr. Abram Hoffer and the dramatic results he obtained. I hope his new book will get the wide distribution it deserves, and I'll certainly refer people to it."  - Charlotte Gerson

 "For the inside scoop, I highly recommend reading Hospitals and Health." - Dr. Joseph Mercola

Hospitals and Health: Your Orthomolecular Guide to a Shorter, Safer Hospital Stay

Reviewed by Dr. Joseph Mercola

Dr. Andrew Saul is currently editor-in-chief of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, and has authored over 100 publications and seven books, including Hospitals and Health: Your Orthomolecular Guide to a Shorter Hospital Stay (1), which is the topic of this interview. He is perhaps most prominently known for his appearance in the film Food Matters. Dr. Saul co-authored Hospitals and Health with Dr. Steve Hickey, and Dr. Abram Hoffer, the famous Canadian psychiatrist who, in 1953, demonstrated that high doses of niacin could cure schizophrenia and other similar mental disorders.

"Dr. Hoffer, in his study of biochemistry... noted that over the years there had been attempts to treat psychiatric illnesses by communities that didn't have hospitals. One was the Quaker community. And the Quakers, Dr. Hoffer said, found that if they took the mentally ill; put them in a nice house, gave them good food, and gave them compassionate care, they had a 50 percent cure rate," Dr. Saul says. "Dr. Hoffer commented that drugs have about 10 percent cure rate. He was thinking that drugs might actually be going in the wrong direction, and hospitals give a lot of drugs... When people go into the hospital, they're going to have problems... Statistically, there are so many errors in hospitals that the average works out to one error per patient per day at the minimum. If you're in a hospital for four days, you can expect four medical errors in that time."

According to the 2011 Health Grades Hospital Quality in America Study (2), the incidence rate of medical harm occurring in the United States is estimated to be over 40,000 harmful and/or lethal errors each and EVERY day. Hospitals have become particularly notorious for spreading lethal infections. In the United States, more than 2 million people are affected by hospital-acquired infections each year, and a whopping 100,000 people die as a result. According to the Health Grades report, analysis of approximately 40 million Medicare patients' records from 2007 through 2009 showed that 1 in 9 patients developed such hospital-acquired infections! The saddest part is, most of these cases could likely have been easily prevented with better infection control in hospitals—simple things such as doctors and nurses washing their hands between each patient, for example. Hospitals-, home- and nursing home care account for over one-third of the $2.6 trillion the United States spends for health care. (3) This is TRIPLE what we surrender to drug companies. It wouldn't be so bad if we actually received major benefits for this investment, but, as Dr. Saul's book reveals, this oftentimes is not the case...

Hospital Nutrition and Supplements

However, there are solutions; it is possible to make hospitals better, and the book addresses this at depth. Nutrition is a key element. As Dr. Saul points out, hospital food is almost universally associated with bad food. Most of it is highly processed, but you can sometimes get better fare simply by asking for a vegetarian meal. He also explains why it can be helpful to get a simple note from your primary care physician if you take vitamins and want to continue taking them while in the hospital. And, your rights, should the staff insist you can't take them while staying there. "If you want to take vitamins in the hospital, go ahead and do it," Dr. Saul says. "On the other hand, if the hospital, your physician, or surgeon, can explain to you why, for a particular procedure or a particular medication, you cannot take the vitamin, then you can accommodate that request if they are highly specific. Usually what happens is they'll say, "You can't take any vitamins." But that's just not true. Everyone should take vitamin C before they go to the hospital. They should take vitamin C before they go to the dentist for less infection, less pain, quicker healing time, and less bleeding. The same is true with surgery. People who take high doses of vitamin C are much less likely to have blood clotting in healing, inflammation, and other complications that, unfortunately, are fairly familiar among surgical staff. If someone says, "You can't take vitamin E because we're going to give you Warfarin (Coumadin)," that's a reasonable point. But then... there is evidence that if you take the vitamin E, you don't need aWarfarin. I had a client once who had this exact dilemma. He had thrombophlebitis, and he was on Warfarin. He wanted to take vitamin E instead... He said, "Well, what should I do?" I said, "The best thing to do is to gradually decrease the drug with your doctor's cooperation while increasing the vitamin – again, with your doctor's cooperation. Talk to your doctor. The doctor that put you on the drugs should be the one that you'll talk to about the drugs."... He said, "I don't want to talk to the doctor about this." He actually was afraid to talk to his doctor. He did not want the confrontation. What he did instead was he just started taking the vitamin E. Eventually, his clotting time was extended to the point where the doctor said, "What's going on?" ... Too much Warfarin causes extended bleeding. Too much vitamin E can also cause slightly extended bleeding, but not out of the normal range. I said to him... "You got to talk to your doctor. If your doctor's asking what's going on, [then] tell him. He'll take you off the Coumadin." The fellow talked to the doctor, and the doctor took him off the vitamin E..."

Unfortunately, that's a typical example of "standard care." Dr. Saul, on the other hand, believes one of the first things doctors need to do is to make sure each patient has a multivitamin with each meal. The same goes for inmates in prisons, and senior citizens in nursing homes. "Diets in institutions are terrible," Dr. Saul says. "We can change that right away. People have to refuse the crap that they put on the plate and demand fresh, whole, unprocessed food. If enough people do that, the hospitals will do it. This is something that we can do. Vitamins, multivitamin supplements we can do... The next thing that you can do is demand to be addressed by your title. Do not let them call you by your first name. You are a Mr., Ms., Mrs., or a Dr. This is a small point seemingly, but it can actually change your care. Another thing that people need to do when they go into the hospital, and I got this from a nurse herself, she said, "Bring a guard. I would never let a family member go into the hospital alone. Make absolutely sure that a friend or family member is with them 24 hours a day." What does this do? It makes sure that mistakes aren't made, or if mistakes are made, you've got a witness. At the very least, the person is going to have some company. That's something we can do. Not everybody has an advocate. Not everybody has family members available, but this is still a doable situation. What else can we do about hospitals? We can avoid them..."

Knowing How to Play "the Hospital Game" Can Help Keep You Alive
One of the reasons I am so passionate about sharing the information on this site about healthy eating, exercise, and stress management with you is because it can help keep you OUT of the hospital. But if you do have to go there, you need to know how to play the game. "Dr. Steve Hickey is an authority on game theory, cybernetics, and all kinds of mathematical stuff..." Dr. Saul says. "Dr. Hickey wrote a chapter in Hospitals and Health specifically on the "hospital game" and how to play it. He... demonstrates that the outcome depends on you... If you just go in... [they] take you to bed and you keep quiet, you're what Dr. Hoffer calls a "pious patient." Pious patients tend to get killed. ... The lowest estimate makes hospitals one of the top 10 causes of deaths in the United States... The highest estimate makes hospital and drugs the number one cause of death in the United States... We can fix this problem. We can make a change. But the only way it's going to happen is if you know how to play the game. That's why Hospitals and Health – I think – will really come in handy. Abraham Hoffer practiced for 55 years. He ran hospitals. He had so much experience, and what does it still boil down to? Common sense – good food, good care, as few drugs as possible, and taking charge of your own health."

Why Avoiding Elective Procedures During July May Be a Lifesaving Choice
What's my personal recommendation when it comes to hospital stays? Naturally, my number one suggestion is to avoid hospitals unless it's an absolute emergency and you need life-saving medical attention. In such cases, it's worth taking Dr. Saul's recommendation to bring a personal advocate; a relative or friend who can speak up for you and ensure you're given proper care if you can't do so yourself. If you're having an elective medical procedure done, remember that this gives you greater leeway and personal choice—use it! Many believe training hospitals will provide them with the latest and greatest care, but they can actually be more dangerous. As a general rule, avoid elective surgeries and procedures during the month of July because this is when brand new residents begin their training. According to a 2010 report in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, lethal medicationerrors consistently spike by about 10 percent each July, particularly in teaching hospitals, due to the inexperience of new residents. (4) Also be cautious of weekends. "Sometimes, your best bet for a hospital is a relatively small local one," Dr. Saul advises.

Who has the MOST Power During Your Hospital Stay?
"The most important thing to remember is this: the hospital power structure," Dr. Saul says. "No matter what hospital you go in… Maybe you got to be in a teaching hospital. Maybe you don't have a lot of choices. Maybe you are there because of financial issues. Maybe it's because of geographical issues. Maybe it's because it was an emergency, and you woke up in the hospital. Maybe you have to be there on a weekend... The question is, "Are you going to walk out the front door, or be wheeled out the back?" Now, here's what people need to do. They need to understand that when they are faced with hospitalization, the most powerful person in the most entire hospital system is the patient. The system works on the assumption that the patient will not claim that power... You might have set that up with a document. If you have a power of attorney, a living will, or other types of paperwork or someone is responsible, then we know who's responsible. But let's say that it's just an ordinary situation—the patient has the most power. A patient can say, "No. Do not touch me." And they can't. If they do, it's assault, and you can call the police. Now, they might say, "Well, on your way in, you signed this form." You can unsign it. You can revoke your permission. Just because somebody has permission to do one thing, it doesn't mean that they have the permission to do everything. There's no such thing as a situation that you cannot reverse. If you can make amendments to the U.S. Constitution, you can change your mind about your own personal healthcare. It concerns your very life. You don't want to cry wolf for no reason, but the patient has the potential to put a stop to anything; absolutely anything. If the patient doesn't know that, if they're not conscious, or if they just don't have the moxie to do it, the next most powerful person is the spouse. The spouse has enormous influence and can do almost as much as the patient. If the patient is incapacitated, the spouse can probably do much more than the patient. If there is no spouse present, the next most powerful people in the system are the children of the patient... You'll notice that I haven't noticed doctors or hospital administrators once. That's because they don't have the power. They really don't. They just want you to think that you do. It is an illusion that they run the place. The answer is – you do. They're offering you products and services, and they're trying to get you to accept them without question. ... [W]hen you go to the hospital, bring along a black Sharpie pen, and cross out anything that you don't like in the contract. Put big giant X's through entire clauses and pages, and do not sign it. And when they say, "We're not going to admit you," you say, "Please put it in writing that you refuse to admit me." What do you think your lawyers are going to do with that? They have to [admit you]. They absolutely have to... It's a game, and you can win it. But you can't win it if you don't know the rules. And basically, they don't tell you the rules. In Hospitals and Health, we do."

Knowing how to prevent disease so you can avoid hospitals in the first place is clearly your best bet. But knowing what to do to make your hospital stay as safe and healing as possible is equally important. For the inside scoop, I highly recommend reading the book.


1. Hospitals and Health: Your Orthomolecular Guide to a Shorter, Safer Hospital Stay

2. HealthGrades 2011 Healthcare Consumerism and Hospital Quality in America Report

3. US Health care costs,

4. "A July Effect in Fatal Medication Errors: A Possible Effect of New Medical Residents," Journal of General Internal Medicine, August 2010: 25(8); 774-779

Hospitals and Health: Your Orthomolecular Guide to a Shorter, Safer Hospital Stay

Reviewed by Sue Vogan,

In our lifetime, most of us had to use the services of a doctor and hospital. For many, it was intimidating at best (i.e. we assume that the professionals know what they are doing better than we know our own bodies). The doctor visits infrequently, nurses tell us, without explanation, what and when to do certain things (i.e. take this pill), and the food resembles a conglomeration of low-cost processed foods – totally unpalatable and unhealthy. What’s even worse is being stuck in a room that was put together with treated plywood (as in phenol-formaldehyde resin for bonding) and hospital curtains treated with chemical fire-retardant agents.

One would think that if the hospital can charge heavily marked-up prices ($1-10.00 for an aspirin), they could surely serve well-balanced, organic, nutritious meals. And with the charge of the room, (at $7,000.00 for four days; they could certainly build and refurbish rooms with less unhealthy construction materials. However, many patients in the hospital are not aware of the dangers that they face (i.e. spread of disease by not washing hands).

In Hospitals and Health, the authors explain the history of what hospitals were and what they have become: a business. If the hospital beds are empty, the hospital loses revenue -- just as the doctor who has successfully treated his/her patients is now left with fewer patients can feel the effects in their wallet. So, are the doctors and hospitals not doing their best to help us get and stay well?

Andrew Saul says they could do better. However, the patient can do themselves a great service by taking charge of their heath care.

For example, make sure your diagnosis is correct. “Most treatments depend on the specific diagnosis” and “inappropriate decisions cause errors.” Many physicians depend on evidence-based medicine (EBM) as a guide for diagnosing and treating patients in their practice “using results of large clinical trials.” While this seems like good medicine to these doctors, “unfortunately, large-scale trials are next to useless in this respect.” “The idea that you can use the statistics of groups to predict the response in an individual is fallacy.” “Too often, a medical doctor seems to want to be thought of as a sort of deity, and many patients are only too happy to oblige.”

In order to get the proper diagnosis, aside from clinical observations, it may be suggested that you have testing. How do we know if the testing is something we really need? First, “ask the physician to explain your individual need for the test. This should include the reason the doctor considers you may have the disease.” Do you have symptoms or an unusual result from a previous test? You will want to know the accuracy of the test and the “incidence of the disease in the population and in any high-risk group to which you belong.” Do most people in my high-risk group suffer from whatever disease the doctor is wanting to test for? What will happen if the test comes back positive? What will the follow up look like? Will there be more testing? Is the follow up invasive? And, is there a possibility that you will receive treatment for a disease you do not have – even if the test results are positive?

Doctors are there to be your medical team member. They should be able to provide you with the information about tests, treatments, surgeries and prescriptions. This means the side-effects, possible complications, etc. Insist on all the information so that you can better take charge of your health care.

Don’t be afraid to tell the hospital that the room or food is unsatisfactory. In fact, “Hospitals and Health” provides ways you can get the best out of your health care team (such as a note from your doctor to continue your vitamins). If you can, have a friend or family member as an advocate to make sure you are getting the best care possible.

“Hospitals and Health” should be read by every American before their first doctor’s appointment or hospital stay. The book is easy to understand, has valuable tips, and is backed up by impeccable references. It even has convenient check lists you will want to use to make sure you are getting the best (i.e. basic) hospital considerations.

You may order this book from any internet bookseller.

Hospitals and Health reviewed at

Too often, it's Hospitals OR Health    

There are a number of good "hospital survival guides" in print. This one is quite a bit different: it is a natural-healing, orthomolecular-medicine, megavitamin version, written by a qualified physician with extensive vitamin therapy experience. Dr. Abram Hoffer has long been an outspoken critic of hospital care, and has pressed for hospital reform for over 50 years. He worked in enough of them to know. His main point is that if you have to be hospitalized, make sure it is not a one-way trip. The book pulls no punches as it criticizes hospital care, past and present. But it also provides a great deal of surprisingly upbeat, very practical tactical suggestions: a preferred model of what an orthomolecular (nutrition-based) treatment facility should be; specific supplement and diet parameters; use of vitamins in hospitals; do/don't checklists; and several hundred scientific references. In my opinion, the book is an excellent guide for families, a positive, how-to patient handbook. Job one, the authors say, is to "be sure you leave the hospital by the front door," not the basement (morgue) door. This means taking charge of the menu; knowing how to question authority and complain; learning how to win medical arguments, or at least lose less often; how to keep staff from taking away your vitamin supplements; getting inside the heads of what it is like to be a hospital staffer; how to be an orthomolecular nutrition advocate; what to do to prevent and quickly reverse bedsores; and most of all, how the rights of the patient override the rules of any institution. Everyone has had a family member that has had to be hospitalized. None of them have had a guide to help them using orthomolecular vitamin therapy . . . until now.

Here is an idea of what you will find in this new book by Abram Hoffer, M.D., Andrew Saul, and Steve Hickey:

A hospital, by definition, is a collection of the sick, the injured, the infirm, and the stressed. All these situations call for larger than the normal quantities of dietary vitamins. When is the last time you saw a hospital or nursing home routinely give even a daily multivitamin, let alone specific high-dose therapeutic supplements

This can immediately change, and you can help do it. Prepare to stand firm on what is most important, and negotiate the rest. 

 1. If you want to take your vitamins while hospitalized, bring them with you. A written statement from your doctor that you will be doing so may save a lot of fuss. I'm not exaggerating: hospital staff often tell patients they may not take anything that the hospital didn't authorize them to take. You can hardly count on them to provide megadoses of vitamins. So it is a bit like a movie theater telling you that you can't bring in your own popcorn, but they won't sell you any, either. Vitamins are vastly more important to an enjoyable hospital stay than popcorn is to a movie. 

 2. If you are given a plausible medical reason why you should not take vitamins, be bold and ask for written references. Look up each surgical procedure or medicine you are offered. Is there REALLY a problem with a vitamin? Complete information on drugs is contained in the PHYSICIANS' DESK REFERENCE (PDR), found in any hospital pharmacy, library or doctors' lounge. Your public library will probably even look it up for you if you telephone them from your room. 

The PDR lists all prescription medications (and there is another book for nonprescription medicines) with all their side effects, contraindications and any nutrient-drug interactions. It is quite rare for a vitamin to interfere with a prescription drug. Any such caution is in the PDR in writing. The same information is on drug package inserts. Do not assume that you doctor or nurse has memorized the nutrient/drug connections of some 3,000 drugs in the PDR. 

Surgical information may be obtained from sources other than your surgeon. Try the public or hospital library for the non-technical Good Operations, Bad Operations by Charles Inlander (Penguin, 1993). To know every aspect, two standard reference works are Textbook of Surgery, David Sabiston, ed. (Saunders, 1993) and Principles of Surgery, S. I. Schwartz, et al (McGraw Hill, 1989). 

By the way, any doctor or nurse who makes fun of you for being thorough probably should be more thorough themselves. Don't stand for harassment, especially when you are in the right. Tell a supervisor. 

Unacceptable Reasons for Stopping Vitamins: 
 a. "Vitamins will interfere with your tests." Just have the words "takes vitamins" added onto any paperwork. Interpretation can readily be made.  If there is a specific and essential test or procedure that clearly requires suspension of vitamin supplements, you can stop the day before and resume immediately after it is over. This way you only lose a day. 

 b. "Vitamins will be dangerous after surgery."  Since all nutrition textbooks indicate a substantially increased need for vitamins during wound healing, this is illogical. Some patients have been told that their blood-thinning medications (like Coumadin brand warfarin) are incompatible with vitamins, especially K, C and E. First of all, your supplements do not contain any vitamin K, because your intestinal bacteria make it for you. 

Vitamin C may lessen clotting time, and vitamin E may increase it. Taking both allows the body to achieve a natural balance. If you are given Coumadin, your prothrombin time should be monitored. Since they are constantly taking blood for some reason or other anyway, your "pro-time" can be checked often.  Instead of reducing your vitamins, doctors can simply adjust the amount of their drug. 

 c. "Vitamins are unnecessary if you eat right." I say, long hospital stays are unnecessary if they FED you right. Since they don't, supplements are the simple answer. If you   find a hospital that feeds you a vegetarian, three-quarters raw food diet (blended or juiced for some patients, as needed) then I will lighten up. Until then, "hospital food" will continue to deserve its almost pathogenic reputation, and supplements are completely justified. 

It may be their building, but it is your body. Accept nothing without an explanation that is satisfactory to you. If the nurse or doctor or aide or clerk or orderly or anyone else "says so," ask for a supervisor. If the supervisor "says so," ask to see the hospital administrator.  If she or he is "too busy" for such contact, leave. There are other hospitals. If this sounds like shopping for a new car, well, it very nearly is.  Only this is more important. 


Table of Contents 

Introduction: Dangerous Places, 1

PART ONE Diagnosis—Hazardous to Your Health

CHAPTER 1 How Did We Get Here?, 15
CHAPTER 2 Corporate Medicine and the Profit Motive, 29
CHAPTER 3 Poor Hospital Management, 49
CHAPTER 4 A Look at Hospital-Acquired Infections, 67
CHAPTER 5 Psychiatry and the Limits of Modern Medicine, 83

PART TWO Antidote—Patient Power

CHAPTER 6 The Hospital Game, 115
CHAPTER 7 Take Charge of Your Health Care, 147
CHAPTER 8 The Power of Nutrition, 175

Conclusion, 201
Appendix: Your Hospital Checklists, 205


Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at )



Andrew W. Saul


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