The House of God has been a phenomenon in the fictional village that takes the medical theme as the plot for the story. First published in 1978, the novel has been reprinted several times over the past 30 years, with more than two million copies in print, and translated into more than 20 languages.
Written by the psychiatrist Stephen Bergman with the pen name Samuel Shem, The House of God is based on the author’s real experience during his intern years at the Beth Isreal Hospital of the famous Harvard Medical School. .
The main character of the novel is Roy Basch, an intelligent and idealistic doctor who comes to intern at House of God Hospital. Contrary to Roy’s vision, he must accept jobs and responsibilities beyond his capacity. During the first year, a specialist doctor nicknamed “The Fat Man” instructed Roy. Mr. Fat taught him that for hospitalized patients with incurable illnesses, the majority of diagnoses, treatments and medications only harm them further. The best cure, according to Fat, is to do nothing. It is the “cure” based on this philosophy that makes Roy one of the “most talented resident doctors” in the hospital.
The next year, Roy practiced under the specialist doctor Jo, whose policy was completely opposite to Mr. Fat, and completely complied with the principles of treatment. In reality, however, that treatment is more harmful than it is beneficial for the patient. On the surface Roy shows that he has done all the tests and all the treatment he does, in fact he does nothing. And then, Roy had another year of “great success”.
However, the work overloaded in strength as well as spirit at the hospital has made Roy psychologically hurt. He betrayed Berry, his loyal girlfriend, dating the nurses and the social workers. Roy’s spirit was so depressed that his friends forced him to participate in a pantomime performance in order to regain his balance.
In the final chapters, the psychiatrist Cohen convinces resident doctors to pursue his specialty, and they need psychiatric treatment after enduring their years.
The story ends with Roy and Berry going on a summer vacation in France just before Roy starts working as a psychiatrist. Realizing that she couldn’t get through her arduous internship without Berry, Roy proposed to the one he loved.