"With When Death Becomes Life, Joshua Mezrich has performed the perfect core biopsy of transplantation—a clear and compelling account of the grueling daily work, the spell-binding history and the unsettling ethical issues that haunt this miraculous lifesaving treatment. Mezrich's compassionate and honest voice, punctuated by a sharp and intelligent wit, render the enormous subject not just palatable but downright engrossing."—Pauline Chen, author of Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality A gifted surgeon illuminates one of the most profound, awe-inspiring, and deeply affecting achievements of modern day medicine—the movement of organs between bodies—in this exceptional work of death and life that takes its place besides Atul Gawande’s Complications, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies, and Jerome Groopman’s How Doctors Think.
At the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Joshua Mezrich creates life from loss, transplanting organs from one body to another. In this intimate, profoundly moving work, he illuminates the extraordinary field of transplantation that enables this kind of miracle to happen every day.
When Death Becomes Life is a thrilling look at how science advances on a grand scale to improve human lives. Mezrich examines more than one hundred years of remarkable medical breakthroughs, connecting this fascinating history with the inspiring and heartbreaking stories of his transplant patients. Combining gentle sensitivity with scientific clarity, Mezrich reflects on his calling as a doctor and introduces the modern pioneers who made transplantation a reality—maverick surgeons whose feats of imagination, bold vision, and daring risk taking generated techniques and practices that save millions of lives around the world.
Mezrich takes us inside the operating room and unlocks the wondrous process of transplant surgery, a delicate, intense ballet requiring precise timing, breathtaking skill, and at times, creative improvisation. In illuminating this work, Mezrich touches the essence of existence and what it means to be alive. Most physicians fight death, but in transplantation, doctors take from death. Mezrich shares his gratitude and awe for the privilege of being part of this transformative exchange as the dead give their last breath of life to the living. After all, the donors are his patients, too.
When Death Becomes Life also engages in fascinating ethical and philosophical debates: How much risk should a healthy person be allowed to take to save someone she loves? Should a patient suffering from alcoholism receive a healthy liver? What defines death, and what role did organ transplantation play in that definition? The human story behind the most exceptional medicine of our time, Mezrich’s riveting book is a beautiful, poignant reminder that a life lost can also offer the hope of a new beginning.
Mezrich, a University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health surgery professor, delivers an attention-grabbing and candid look at human organ transplantation. Often pulse-quickening, sometimes stomach-churning, and always immersive, Mezrich's descriptions of the complicated, time-sensitive process of transferring livers, kidneys, and other healthy organs from deceased donors to recipients use examples from his own work as a transplant surgeon. Numerous, well-integrated asides on the evolving trial-and-error of organ transplant, from the early days in the late 19th century through advances made during WWII and after, complement his personal stories. In addition to being up-front about the fear of making a mistake during surgery "It needs to be perfect. Otherwise the patient will pay a huge price, the donor won't have given the gift of life, and you will be woken in the middle of the night by a shrill pager" Mezrich describes the emotional attachment that can form between donor families and donor recipients. He notes how one patient, having received a heart from a young woman killed in a car accident, celebrates her donor's birthday each year, "almost as if it were her own." Success through perseverance is this book's main theme, and Mezrich does a commendable job sharing his death-to-life experiences in a vital field.
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My Mom just had a kidney transplant 3 weeks ago... she is one of the lucky ones after being in the wait list for 4.5 years. This book allowed me to understand the magic and science that went into the surgery that saved her from death. This is a great read for anyone especially those that are curious or have been effected by transplant.