The Undead: Organ Harvesting, the Ice-Water Test, Beating-Heart Cadavers—How Medicine Is Blurring the Line Between Life and Death

Dick Teresi. Pantheon, $26.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-375-42371-0
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Suddenly, death doesn’t seem so certain after all. In this brutally honest look at how doctors determine the moment of death, skeptical science writer and Omni magazine cofounder Teresi (The God Particle) relishes ripping into the 1968 Harvard team that formulated new criteria for determining death: “loss of personhood,” or brain death. Doctors, Teresi says, can now “declare a person dead in less time than it takes to get a decent eye exam” by testing reflexes: “a flashlight in the eyes, ice water in the ears, and then an attempt to gasp for air” when the respirator is disconnected. Teresi interviews scientists who question the finality of brain death when the heart is still beating, and even the concept that personhood is located solely in the brain. More alarming, Teresi charges that the brain-death revolution is driven by the $20 billion-a-year organ transplant business. Teresi will scare readers to death with examples of how undependable brain-death criteria can be—one organ donor began to breathe spontaneously just as the surgeon removed his liver. But the more powerful effect of this scathing report should be the start of an uncomfortable but necessary conversation between doctors and potential organ donors. Agent: Janklow and Nesbit. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/06/2012
Release date: 03/13/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 195 pages - 978-0-307-90711-0
Paperback - 350 pages - 978-1-4000-9611-4
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