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Publisher's Summary

"With When Death Becomes Life, Joshua Mezrich has performed the perfect core biopsy of transplantation - a clear and compelling account of the grueling daily work, the spellbinding history and the unsettling ethical issues that haunt this miraculous lifesaving treatment. Mezrich's compassionate and honest voice, punctuated by a sharp and intelligent wit, render the enormous subject not just palatable but downright engrossing." (Pauline Chen, author of Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality)

A gifted surgeon illuminates one of the most profound, awe-inspiring, and deeply affecting achievements of modern-day medicine - the movement of organs between bodies - in this exceptional work of death and life that takes its place beside Atul Gawande’s Complications, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies, and Jerome Groopman’s How Doctors Think

At the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Joshua Mezrich creates life from loss, transplanting organs from one body to another. In this intimate, moving work, he illuminates the field of transplantation that enables this kind of miracle to happen every day.

When Death Becomes Life is a thrilling look at how science advances on a grand scale to improve human lives. Mezrich examines more than 100 years of remarkable medical breakthroughs, connecting this fascinating history with the inspiring and heartbreaking stories of his transplant patients. Combining gentle sensitivity with scientific clarity, Mezrich reflects on his calling as a doctor and introduces the modern pioneers who made transplantation a reality - maverick surgeons whose feats of imagination, bold vision, and daring risk-taking generated techniques and practices that save millions of lives around the world.

Mezrich takes us inside the operating room and unlocks the wondrous process of transplant surgery, a delicate, intense ballet requiring precise timing, breathtaking skill, and at times, creative improvisation. In illuminating this work, Mezrich touches the essence of what it means to be alive. Most physicians fight death, but in transplantation, doctors take from death. Mezrich shares his gratitude and awe for the privilege of being part of this transformative exchange as the dead give their last breath of life to the living. After all, the donors are his patients, too.

When Death Becomes Life also engages in fascinating ethical and philosophical debates: How much risk should a healthy person be allowed to take to save someone she loves? Should a patient suffering from alcoholism receive a healthy liver? What defines death, and what role did organ transplantation play in that definition? The human story behind the most exceptional medicine of our time, Mezrich’s riveting audiobook is a beautiful, poignant reminder that a life lost can also offer the hope of a new beginning.

©2019 Joshua D. Mezrich (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers

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What listeners say about When Death Becomes Life

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Memoir and history, beautifully written

When Death Becomes Life is an interesting memoir and history of organ transplantation from transplant surgeon Dr. Joshua Mezrich. While I enjoyed his writing about the history, researchers and physicians that brought us to this point in time with transplantations, I enjoyed his writing about his own background, how and why he became a transplant surgeon, and his own patients just as much or more. Dr. Mezrich always maintains an awareness and respect for the great gift that donors and their families are giving, and reminds readers of that often. I loved reading about the technical details of kidney transplants, but Dr. Mezrich also reminds the readers that even though it may be an almost-routine procedure, it is really never routine. He recounts his enthusiasm at seeing a kidney become pink with blood flow and begin producing urine, and also writes about heart, lung, liver, and pancreas transplants, and the inherent difficulties with them. I thoroughly enjoyed the chapter about how cyclosporine was discovered and what a huge difference it made in transplantations. After all, transplantation is as much about immunology as it is about surgical skill, and Dr. Mezrich recounts all of this in his thoroughly enjoyable book.

5 people found this helpful

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I admit I’m biased

The author was part of the greatest day of my life, as he removed my kidney so it could be transplanted into my sister. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but admit that my admiration for the author might have been a factor.

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Breath Taking!

I'm a living kidney donor, so when I heard about this book, it was a must have. Very fascinating, informative, and a tear jerker!

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  • 04-08-21

Excellent book

So many stories each with its own character. I truly enjoyed this, especially since I'm one of the very first organ donors and I know some of the historical people mentioned.

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Loved this book

I Loved this book. My Son-in-Law recently had a Heart Transplant. It sparked my interest in Transplants.It’s an amazing world. This book combines many aspects of this world. I especially liked the History of how we got to this point. We have a long way to go.

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Great

I am a nursing student and this book was very educational and humbling. I appreciate all of the kind health care personal out there.

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Loved the real examples

As a retired medical person, I loved the recounting of different people’s stories, and how the transplants changed their lives. As a flag-waving organ donor (if they can use anything, at my age) my positive attitude toward donation has been truly intensified.
.... now, if they could only find a narrator who pronounced all the technical words correctly.... but his was better than most, so credit is due.

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Good - if you’re intimately involved in the field

I loved this book, but I also am a PA in transplant surgery. I think would struggle to relate if I wasn’t intimately and passionately involved in the field.

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Phenomenal

Excellent narration excellent story excellent sequence of every topic related to transplant and it was just a phenomenal performance and I’m so sad it’s over

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Liver recipient 1988

I am a liver transplant patient, born with Biliary Atresia, transplanted at UCLA. This book is absolutely amazing, it gives GREAT insight on the history of transplantation...I really enjoyed listening to this.

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  • Yazan Rawashdeh
  • 01-28-21

Excellent

Great book
Recommend it whole heartedly. Great mix of transplantation history and Dr. Mezrich’s vast experience as a renowned transplant surgeon. It follows in the line of other great books on the same topic such as “King of Hearts” and “Borrowing Life”.

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  • BryanS
  • 11-29-19

Excellent insight into all things transplantation

Anyone interested in transplantation this book is a great help. Deals with the history of transplantation and the pioneer's who lead the way as well as fascinating insight into the world of a surgeon.