Important and provocative, The Undead examines why even with the tools of advanced technology, what we think of as life and death, consciousness and nonconsciousness, is not exactly clear - and how this problem has been further complicated by the business of organ harvesting.
Dick Teresi, a science writer with a dark sense of humor, manages to make this story entertaining, informative, and accessible as he shows how death determination has become more complicated than ever. Teresi introduces us to brain-death experts, hospice workers, undertakers, coma specialists and those who have recovered from coma, organ transplant surgeons and organ procurers, anesthesiologists who study pain in legally dead patients, doctors who have saved living patients from organ harvests, nurses who care for beating-heart cadavers, ICU doctors who feel subtly pressured to declare patients dead rather than save them, and many others. Much of what they have to say is shocking.
Teresi also provides a brief history of how death has been determined from the times of the ancient Egyptians and the Incas through the 21st century. And he draws on the writings and theories of celebrated scientists, doctors, and researchers—Jacques-Bnigne Winslow, Sherwin Nuland, Harvey Cushing, and Lynn Margulis, among others—to reveal how theories about dying and death have changed. With The Undead, Teresi makes us think twice about how the medical community decides when someone is dead.
©2012 Dick Teresi (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
"Chilling, controversial, and, at times, comical commentary on physical death." (Booklist)
It was difficult to tell where one chapter began and another left off, mostly because of the writing style. Perhaps more chapters that were shorted in length could have helped though.
Probably not. This was such an interesting topic but he made it so boring and tedious. I didn't need a recap of the death beliefs of Ancient Egyptians. I hoped this book would be about the modern "miracles" of Franken-medicine and some of the ethical and moral considerations but that is not what I listened to.
The book was more a series of anecdotal incidents and personal opinion than a well-documented review of the sciencific questions surrounding end of life issues. The author makes frequent sarcastic remarks that are intended to be humorous. They are out of place in a book that had the potential to provide insight into a complex area of research. The author makes frequent suggestions that the medical profession does not diagnose brain death accurately and suggests that "beating heart cadavers" feel pain during the removal of organs for transplant - fear mongering at its worst.
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