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.
One hesitates to review Eula Biss’s book “On Immunity” about inoculation because it likely reduces the probability that a reader/listener will fairly consider her point of view. Once a reviewer shows that Biss supports inoculation, those opposed are likely not to read or listen to her book. Biss is not a doctor. However, she is a mother, and an award-winning non-fiction writer who is praised for the quality of her research, and writing.
In light of Biss’s hyper-vigilance as a research writer, and more importantly as a mother, one knows she is committed to making the most responsible decisions possible about inoculation. The word “hyper-vigilance” in regard to research and motherhood is used to suggest Biss carefully considers inoculation’s benefits and threats. Biss notes that inoculation deniers are not entirely wrong about inoculation but she argues that their concerns are based on weak science. The evidence of history is that inoculation reduces the number of deaths and disabilities from illness; not without errors in manufacture and distribution, but with dramatic improvement in reduced mortality rates.
Biss infers those doctors who sit on the fence regarding inoculation (she mentions a famed pediatrician named Dr. Bob), do a disservice to the public. This synopsis of "On Immunity" is a candle light on Biss's book about inoculation. Read or listen to the book. It replaces candle light with sunshine.