Intensive Care: Facing the Critical Choices

Thomas Raffin, Author, Robert Friedman, Author, Wharton Sinkler, With
Thomas Raffin, Author, Robert Friedman, Author, Wharton Sinkler, With W.H. Freeman & Company $18.95 (210p) ISBN 978-0-7167-1970-0
Reviewed on: 03/01/1990
Release date: 03/01/1990
Intensive Care Unit chief Raffin, with science writer Shurkin and the Reverend Sinkler, an anesthesiologist, here set out to clarify the intimidating equipment and procedures of the ICU. But their litany of unhappy statistics and potential health complications makes initial chapters alarming reading for patients or loved ones in search of encouragement. Though they provide summaries of the ICU's various support systems, the authors' true purpose is to argue the right to die. In later chapters, anecdotal and legal case histories illustrate the virtues of ``a dignified and peaceful death'' when even the most heroic measures are doomed to fail. The authors make an intelligent, stirring case for allowing patients and their relativesguided by ``living wills'' and compassionate physiciansto determine when to cease medical support that merely prolongs suffering or postpones the death of a body whose spirit is gone. But this message, particularly when presented in the guise of an introduction to ICUs, is not needed by ICU patients with positive prognoses. (Nov.)
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