Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
Kevin Fong, a physician, believes exploration and extreme medicine are linked. Fong’s book, "Extreme Medicine", links exploration and medical advance with real-life stories of adventure, discovery; failure and success. He argues that exploration of the unknown transforms medicine.
Fong begins with a story of frostbite in the early 20th century. The two edges of subzero weather are revealed; one edge destroys while the other preserves life. Fong recounts the life of a mariner that dies from frostbite that slowly saps life from his limbs, his brain, and finally his heart. Then Fong tells of a skier’s accident in freezing weather that leaves her clinically dead for three hours. The skier lives even though 20 minutes without an operating autonomic system means death.
Ethics come into issue in a doctor’s sale of extreme medicine to desperate patients. Life is always, to quote a previous book review, a matter of “me before you”. Doctors are human. Money, power, and prestige affect their decisions just as they affect all human decisions. The difference is that the patient has more to lose than the doctor.
This is not to deny the theme of Fong’s book. Living life is, by nature, an exploration. Human beings who choose to explore extremes do advance knowledge. Knowledge drawn from exploration does transform medicine. Knowledge transforms everything in life. Life on earth is finite. With exploration, life is potentially infinite.
Mary Roach explores everything from sex to bowel movements in her outer space travel guide, “Packing for Mars”. Roach participates in some NASA training to get a first hand experience of what it takes to be a space traveler. She experiences weightlessness in 22 second intervals. She floats like a butterfly while some of her space mates puke breakfast and lunch.
Roach does use humor to explain what space travel takes but looking past the humor one is overwhelmed by the gap between current science and technology and human travel to other planets.
An interesting insight offered by Henry Marsh’s memoir, “Do No Harm”, is a contrast between American and British Medicine. Marsh’s candor about his life and profession surprise his audience. “Do No Harm” endears his curmudgeonly personality. The surprise is in Marsh’s profound empathy and personal conflicts that accompany his neurological decisions.
Marsh’s endearment comes from explicit “f-word” rants about British National Health Care’s under-funded technology, bureaucracy, and medical treatment. Marsh explains the fine line between physician’ hubris and self-confidence; i.e. a distinction good physicians need–to understand their limitations, and competently treat their patients. Jim Barclay’s narration perfectly suits the tone of Marsh’s memoir.
Is medical health service a human right or privilege? One draws their own conclusion about British and American Medicine. Marsh does not answer the question but suggests adequate health services revolve around physician’ empathy and medical treatment transparency. Marsh shows the monumental problems of affordable health care in England. A listener of “Do No Harm” infers equally challenging problems in America.