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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.
Any additional comments?
After listening for a while, I found that the narrator sounds a lot like Neil Degrasse Tyson, who has a great voice! I am very picky about narrators and I loved this one. I am and always have been interested in the studies surrounding death and dying, so this was a great read/listen for me. Very interesting!
It was an interesting topic, but the narrator / author is a bit full of himself and could have delivered the material in a less flamboyant and far more concise way. It dragged a bit throughout for the sake of telling a story. He raises questions about a lot of assumptions surrounding death that we take for granted, which I think is a real value of this book. However, there is a level of paranoia and reactionary response to many aspects of modern medicine that I think seemed much more characteristic of sensationalist journalism than objective science. You'll certainly have your eyes opened, but I would caution any one from completely drinking the kool aid and throwing out their organ donor status based on his perspective alone.
I will admit that every now and then you get a dud on here and this is a case in point. The subject matter was interesting but the delivery wasn't. Otherwise it was a good listen
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
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.
Would you ever listen to anything by Dick Teresi again?
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.
Would you try another book from Dick Teresi and/or David Marantz?
What was most disappointing about Dick Teresi’s story?
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.