The Undead: Organ Harvesting, the Ice-Water Test, Beating Heart Cadavers--How Medicine Is Blurring the Line Between Life and Death Hardcover – Mar 13 2012
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
To get the free app, enter your e-mail address or mobile phone number.
“This disturbing, often hilarious book raises many critical questions about deadness.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“An indefatigable researcher and fluid writer, Mr. Teresi provides a good long riff on death past and present.”
—The New York Times
The Week Magazine Author of the Week (03/21/2012)
"The moment of death, suggests science writer Dick Teresi, is harder to pin down than ever...Charting historical definitions of death, the thinking of research greats and debates over near-death experiences, Teresi notes that the ethical challenges are immense, asking, for instance, whether all organ donors are unrevivable."
“…Chilling, controversial, and, at times, comical commentary on physical death…All sorts of experts—on coma, animal euthanasia, and execution—as well as undertakers, organ transplant staff, neurologists, ethicists, and lawyers weigh-in on the death debate.”
—Tony Miksanek, Booklist
“Like a real-life version of Robin Cook’s medical thriller Coma, Teresi paints a grisly picture of organ harvesting and raises uncomfortable questions: Is the donor actually dead rather than at the point of death? Might he or she be revived given time and proper medical attention? …Provocative… [An] examination of important ethical issues and the still-unresolved question of what constitutes death.”
—The Kirkus Review
“Reading Dick Teresi’s book is like discovering that your college class has been hijacked by the spitball-lobbing kid in the back row—and that the kid is twice as smart as the prof ever was. Taking on biologists, philosophers, and the medical establishment, Teresi zestfully skewers our confused thinking about life, death, and the states in between. The Undead is a rarity: a superserious examination of a profound subject that is a pleasure to read.”
—Charles C. Mann, author of 1493 and 1491
“As I was pulled into this startling, informative account of death-defying and death-defining, I couldn’t help putting a checkmark in the margin next to every line that made me gasp—or laugh—or marvel at Dick Teresi’s bold, inimitable reporting style. On some pages I made as many as four checkmarks. The book left me reeling at the welter of uncertainty that surrounds the certainty of death.”
—Dava Sobel, author of Longitude and A More Perfect Heaven
About the Author
Dick Teresi is the coauthor of The God Particle and the author of Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science, both selected as New York Times Book Review Notable Books. He has been the editor in chief of Science Digest, Longevity, VQ, and Omni, and has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic, among other publications.See all Product Description
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Nowhere does Mr. Teresi claim that the people involved in this field aren't compassionate or sensitive (with a few exceptions). He does, however, cite enough published acientific work to support his thesis that decisions are made based on false or untested assumptions. He also claims that those who are in the position of declaring people dead are often misinformed or careless about the proper procedures. Studies in other areas have shown that doctors believe they are following protocol much more often than they actually are, with unfortunate results. If those who work in the field are convinced otherwise let them show studies that contradict this.
This book is well written, although I did occasionally feel that he as being sensationalist. Mr. Teresi also bases some claims on facilitated communication, a method whose scientific merit is highly questionable. Still, the studies cited to support his claims demand an informed response, not the emotional pleas of caregivers, transplant recipients and others who feel that the good of transplants supercedes any of the legitimate issues raised in tis book.
In the interim, however, I find it intriguing that though the book was published on March 13, on that very same date it had already received 16 critical one-star Amazon ratings. By March 16 (just 3 days later), there were an additional 14 one-star Amazon ratings - totaling 30. All this before the book could have possibly even been delivered to (much less read by) any of these "reviewers."
So what operation orchestrated that smear?
After reading the book, I may indeed conclude it stinks. Or I may appreciate the author's research and cautions. Or something in between. I won't know until I read and evaluate its content. (I'm giving it an initial 3 stars simply because Amazon reviews require a star selection in order to post. My stars rating may go up or down after reading it.)
We all have our biases. I do as well. At least read the material before you take shots at it rather than simply regurgitating the opinions of others telling you what you should write. Sheesh!
Ok, it's 4 weeks later, and now having actually READ the book, here are my thoughts:
First, I have bumped up my overall opinion from an original "non-committal" of 3 stars to 4 stars. I wouldn't say this was a great read, but a pretty informationally compelling one - especially if you are or lean toward becoming an organ donor at death.
(As a side note, this book is nothing about donating organs while you are alive, such as donating one of your two kidneys for someone you match up with.)
Though some will criticize the book because it appears to go in directions that aren't specifically related to organ donating, the author's apparent goal is to provide an overall perspective first on death itself. What exactly is death, and when exactly does it occur in human beings? These are not just philosophical questions. They matter when YOU (a donor) are lying on the table to have your organs extracted.
So the time he spends discussing death from an evolutionary perspective, a overview of historical perspectives on death (i.e. what constitutes death, when it occurs) and even a chapter on near-death experiences - which on the surface may seem "out there" - makes evident his intent to bring into perspective the critical issues of when a person is really dead, and how the medical community can tell.
Much of his discussion revolves around contemporary views of brain death, tests done to confirm death, and a number of factors demonstrating how conclusively UNreliable these can be.
I suspect most people would be at least relatively comfortable - if not enthusiastic - about donating their organs at the point of death so long as we have medical assurance that there is no risk of either consciousness or sensation of pain while in a vegetative state when while brain dead. This book calls those two assurances into question in a disconcertingly significant number of documented cases - and thus by extrapolation, you're made to wonder about one's own prospective experience when it comes time to donate organs at death.
For me, one of the main drawbacks of the book is that the author neither offers his opinion or even his personal intentions in how/if he would make his own body available for organ donation at death. (I have actually heard him state his intent during an interview, but it is not included in the book. So I'm not repeating his verbal comment here for two reasons: First, my feedback is about his book, not his interview. And secondly, since it was a radio interview, I wasn't able to determine if his comments were serious or more tongue-in-cheek.) But an author's personal conclusions can be very helpful, especially when the reasons for those conclusions are spelled out clearly - even if I don't agree with him.
For those who plan to donate their organs and are content assuming that all will go well at death (i.e. you'll really, truly be dead and therefore won't know what's going on with your body or feel a thing), this is probably not the book for you. The odds are in your favor, anyway.
If, on the other hand, you wish to at least chew on the possibility that medical errors concerning death, consciousness (in circumstances when all appearances would seem to INDICATE death), pain after "death," and that maybe - just maybe - there can be significant financial incentives to declare death too quickly when viable organs for donation are at risk of not surviving a more thorough death analysis, then this book is a worthwhile read.
After doing so, you may blow off many of the author's concerns as unlikely, or conversely they may give you pause for thought concerning your plans for the use of your own body at death. Either way, you owe yourself a knowledgeable decision.
As for a number of previous Amazon "reviews" of this book where many individuals clearly hadn't read a word of the book (couldn't have even had it in hand at the time of their comments), that just demonstrates a fundamental lack of integrity and an agenda that for them clearly supersedes informative research which more thoughtful people may see as helpful. I find such "reviews" reprehensible - even if they were to agree 100% with my own conclusions.
If you read the book and hate it, say so. If you think the author is spot on, say so. But as I said in my initial feedback 4 weeks ago, at least be honest and read it before commenting.
I like Teresi's point of view that science is uncertain about a lot of what we think we know. Doctors and brain scientists don't really know what is going on with people in vegetative states, comas, or on life support.
The book is not especially well-written: there is a lot of narrative ribbing, personal asides, disorganization, and redundancy. But his point-of-view is well-formed.
Look for similar items by category
- Books > Medical Books > Medicine > Medical Ethics
- Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Philosophy
- Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Sociology > Death
- Books > Science & Math > Biological Sciences > Biology
- Books > Science & Math > History & Philosophy
- Books > Science & Math > Medicine > Physician & Patient > Medical Ethics