There is no more universal truth in life than death. No matter who you are, it is certain that one day you will die, but the mechanics and understanding of that experience will differ greatly in today’s modern age. Dr. Haider Warraich is a young and brilliant new voice in the conversation about death and dying started by Dr. Sherwin Nuland and Atul Gawande. Dr. Warraich takes a broader look at how we die today, from the cellular level up to the very definition of death itself.
The most basic aspects of dying—the whys, wheres, whens, and hows—are almost nothing like what they were mere decades ago. Beyond its ecology, epidemiology, and economics, the very ethos of death has changed. Modern Death, Dr. Warraich’s debut book, will explore the rituals and language of dying that have developed in the last century, and how modern technology has not only changed the hows, whens, and wheres of death, but the what of death.
Delving into the vast body of research on the evolving nature of death, Modern Death will provide readers with an enriched understanding of how death differs from the past, what our ancestors got right, and how trends and events have transformed this most final of human experiences.
Warraich, a physician, writer, and clinical researcher, thoughtfully investigates the often alarming realities of death in early 21st-century America. For many it will be a "drawn-out slow burn" from a chronic illness, and where that end occurs depends largely on race and economic status. As medicine improves, it has paradoxically made death "more harrowing and prolonged today than it has ever been before." For Warraich, the person who more than any other "would come to define modern death" was Karen Ann Quinlan, whose coma triggered a fight over keeping her on life support a contentious battle that ended with a 1976 New Jersey Supreme Court decision that momentously introduced "the patient and the family member into medical decision making." Around the same time, brain death was defined in a way that has made many modern deaths protracted for the patient, uncertain for the medical team, and heart-wrenching for grieving families. Dying may now include a health-care proxy, a living will, and advance directives to accommodate the patient's wishes for their own death. as Warraich eloquently explores the act of dying, he urges the public to talk more about it and pleads for "resuscitating many of the aspects of death that we have lost."