cover image The Puzzle People: Memoirs of a Transplant Surgeon

The Puzzle People: Memoirs of a Transplant Surgeon

Thomas E. Starzl. University of Pittsburgh Press, $24.95 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-8229-3714-2

Powerful, poignant, deft, this memoir in itself serves as a masterful argument for organ transplantation as Starzl, a retired pioneer in the field, re-creates the intricate history, the stunning breakthroughs and the tragic failures of the controversial surgery. Born in Iowa in 1926 to a nurse mother and a journalist-science fiction novelist father, Starzl as a young doctor showed himself to be tenacious in perfecting kidney and liver transplants, while overcoming medical infighting and resistant medical and government bureaucracies. Moving from the University of Colorado to the University of Pittsburgh--he established renal transplantation centers at both--he takes us through the advances, from the technique requiring related kidney donors to cadaveric kidney and liver implants to the development of drugs to aid in managing rejection and infection, to programs for finding donors and transporting their organs. Starzl pays tribute to colleagues who either paved the way or helped set the course, while firmly judging those he views as impeders. If he does not lay to rest the philosophical and financial issues surrounding organ transplantation, he succeeds in making us reconsider reservations, reminding us that ``All triumphs in medicine are the forgotten sorrows of past days.'' Photos not seen by PW . (Sept.)