QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
More than twenty years ago, Dr. Victoria Sweet arrived at San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital, intending to stay for a brief time. A descendant of the Hôtel-Dieu (God’s Hotel) that cared for the sick poor in the Middle Ages, Laguna Honda was the last almshouse in the country. Ballet dancers and rock musicians, professors and thieves-“anyone who had fallen, or, often, leapt onto hard times” and needed extended medical care-ended up there.
At Laguna Honda, lower-tech but human-paced, Sweet had the opportunity to practice a kind of “slow medicine” that has almost vanished, and falling under the hospital’s spell, she decided to stay. Gradually, her remarkable patients transformed the way she understood medicine. Alongside the modern view of the body as a machine to be repaired, they evoked an older idea, of the body as a garden to be tended. God’s Hotel is their story, and the story of the hospital itself, which-as efficiency experts, politicians, and architects descended, determined to turn it into a modern “health care facility”-revealed its own surprising truths about the essence, cost, and value of caring for body and soul.
ABOUT VICTORIA SWEET
A member of the medical staff at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco for more than twenty years, Victoria Sweet is an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and a prize-winning historian with a Ph.D. in history and social medicine. God’s Hotel has been praised by Oliver Sacks, Jerome Groopman, and numerous other medical authorities; has won numerous awards; and has deemed “hard-core subversion” (The New York Times), “radical and inspiring” (Vanity Fair) and “subversive in all the best ways” (Health Affairs).