Monday, August 20, 2012

New Meaning to Life After Death

The Undead
How Medicine Is Blurring the Line Between Life and Death
by Dick Teresi

Dick Teresi is going to die. He'll be the first to tell you. But when the time comes, how will the doctors know that he's gone? That's the question at the heart of this book. Teresi dives head-first into the science of determining when a person is officially dead, and he doesn't like what he finds.

Near the beginning he claims, with upraised palms and wide-eyed innocence, that he is "merely a journalist reporting facts." But it quickly becomes apparent that if there is a pot, Teresi will be stirring it. He's a cantankerous tour guide through the medical establishment, and even if you don't like what he's got to say you're in for a wild ride.

His focus through much of the book is on organ donation, and the methods by which those organs are procured. He is suspicious of doctors who seem to rank the lives of some patients over the lives of others. He particularly warns that you should not die in Washington D.C. where the laws allow procedures "strangely similar to practices during the era of the European anatomy theaters." This is because if you're a visitor with no family nearby you may be volunteered for organ donation, the same way visitors in town were offered up for public autopsies in the eighteenth century.

He also discusses near death experiences, communication with people in persistent vegetable states, and how Ambien can occasionally wake people from comas.

Be prepared to take it all with a large grain of salt, but this is a sensational look at a subject that many of us would like to ignore.

Review by Danny Hanbery

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