An important and provocative examination of why the line between life and death, consciousness and unconsciousness, is a blurred one, even with the tools of advanced technology, and especially in light of the business of organ harvesting. In this fascinating look at how the determination of death has become complicated and bewildering, Dick 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 live 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. Teresi writes about how death has been determined through the ages, beginning with the ancient Egyptians, and about the 1968 Harvard Medical School paper that officially stated that death was not cardiopulmonary failure or cell death but a "loss of personhood"--i.e., brain death. And throughout, he makes clear that organ harvesting has become big business, while the medical establishment has become less and less clear about who is truly dead or alive. About the Author Dick Teresi is the author or coauthor of several books about science and technology, most recently The God Particle and Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science, both selected as New York Times Book Review notable books. He has been editor in chief of Science Digest, Longevity, VQ, and Omni, of which he was also a cofounder, and has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian, The Atlantic, and Discover, among other publications.
What is death, and how do people in the medical profession determine it? In this fascinating examination of the increasingly blurred line between life and death, consciousness and unconsciousness, science journalist Dick Teresi introduces us to the coma specialists, organ transplant surgeons, ICU doctors, and many others who are faced with this issue daily. The Undead describes how death has been determined through the ages, beginning with the ancient Egyptians and leading to the 1968 Harvard Medical School paper that indirectly stated that death was not cardiopulmonary failure, but a “loss of personhood”—i.e., brain death. Teresi explores the consequences of new technologies that extend people’s lives but which conflict with society’s desire to see them declared dead before their time.
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