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A Spirit of Charity: Restoring the Bond between America and Its Public Hospitals

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IPPY Silver Award Winner - Current Events

IBPA Ben Franklin Silver Award Winner - Current Events

Most Americans have historically viewed the nation’s great public hospitals as refuges of last resort for poor and uninsured people. But these iconic institutions – some recently closed, some renamed, others rebuilt -- have also served as a safety valve for the nation’s highly profitable medical industrial complex. They are a key to understanding the evolution of America’s $3 trillion health care system, not just for the poor, but the affluent as well, argues veteran journalist Mike King. Through an examination of their unique history and an incisive analysis of policy successes and failures, A Spirit of Charity reveals the remarkable story of why public hospitals matter and why they should play a more prominent role in our public policy discussions.

About the Author

For nearly four decades Mike King worked as a reporter, Washington correspondent, science and medicine editor, and opinion writer for the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in Georgia. He and his wife live in Atlanta.

Praise for A Spirit of Charity

“Through stories of achievements, challenges and calamities at five large public hospitals in the U.S., King shows that medical excellence resides where few people expect to find it – and how those centers are threatened by misplaced public priorities and political mythologies.” - Hank Klibanoff, James M. Cox Jr. Professor of Journalism, Emory University; co-author, The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation, 2007 Pulitzer Prize, history

“Any effort at health care reform must first understand the essential role of public hospitals, which is what makes A Spirit of Charity required reading for policy makers and health advocates alike.” - Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society; former director of the Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence at Grady Memorial Hospital, Atlanta 

“How did we get here? Why have these myths about health care lasted so long? Why is the United States the exception among our peer-nations when it comes to universal coverage? What role do public hospitals play both in protecting the vulnerable and allowing us to ignore the sources of their vulnerability? Can or should we hope for a day when the public hospital is no more? A Spirit of Charity has many of the answers to these vital questions.” - From the Foreword by Arthur Caplan, PhD; Founding Director, Division of Medical Ethics; Drs. William F. and Virginia Connolly Mitty Professor, New York University Langone Medical Center

 “In the spirit of investigative journalism, this assessment of public hospitals paints a grim picture of health care for the poor in America…. [A Spirit of Charity is] a searing and sobering indictment of the public health care system that highlights the inequality of treatment.” - Kirkus Reviews

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Mike King
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