I am about to purchase this book after listening to the author discuss it on NPR. I will post a review on the book AFTER reading it.
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.