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A Slow Death: 83 Days of Radiation Sickness Hardcover – October 21, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Stylistically resembling a fictional narrative, this grim chronicle of Ouchi’s deterioration demonstrates the humanity and pyschology of the medical profession in extreme situations. In that sense, it᾿s an interesting companion to [Osamu Tezuka’s] Black Jack manga. Think of it as such a nightmarish episode of House that as a result of watching it you resolve never to tune into the series again.”
—Firefox News

“Harnessing the atom’s energy can help, even save, mankind or lead to its destruction. This is the sad, cautionary tale of things gone awry, a noble effort by Japanese physicians to save Mr. Ouchi’s life and of our limited ability to deal with the consequences of mistakes in this arena.”
—Robert Peter Gale, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., F.A.C.P. (Hon),
UCLA Medical Center

“Radiation injuries are potentially complex, often involving a combination of different types of radiation energy. The Tokaimura accident reminds us of these complexities as well as the importance of accurate information flow from the site of the incident to the healthcare provideer in the hospital. New knowledge was gained regarding optimal management of acute radiation toxicity.”
—Nicholas Dainiak, M.D., F.A.C.P. Yale University School of Medicine
Chairman of Medicine, Bridgeport Hospital

BEST OF 2008 -- The Japan Times

"A brave account of corporate greed and scientific expertise"

About the Author

NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai) or Japan Broadcasting
Corporation is Japan's public broadcaster. This
book is an original television documentary--under
the same name--produced by NHK, which aired in
May 2001. The documentary won the Gold Nymph
Award--the highest award possible--at the 42nd
Monte Carlo Television Festival in 2002.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Vertical; First Edition (stated) edition (October 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934287407
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934287408
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.7 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #229,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There can be no spoiler alert here, as the title tells you the end of the story. Also, the vibrant yellow blocks on the book cover gradually turn a sickly green. The 83rd block is black. Goodbye.

I read "A Slow Death" in two hours and have been disturbed about it ever since. Despite the efforts of some of the world's most talented and compassionate medical professionals, Mr. Ouchi was doomed from the blue flash. This book describes the hope of success and the grim progression of the inevitable. Intricate medical procedures and nuclear physics were explained in a way that did not bore or confuse me, and did not cause me to lose sight of the humanity of the suffering patient.

After watching some Cold War movies I was interested in learning about what happened to people who were exposed to high levels of radiation. In the movies people grew pale, threw up a lot, and died; I knew that couldn't be the entire story. Radiation Sickness is described on the internet as including things like vomiting, hair loss, skin hemorrhages, bleeding, loss of white blood cells, pain, delirium and often death, but that seemed vague. This book, however, explained in detail how these symptoms (and several unexpected others) actually played out in the life of a thirty-five year old husband and father. Afterwards I felt a little guilty for reading it and peering into the window of such agony just to satisfy my curiosity.

The gentle and amiable patient did not realize for several days that he was what is termed a "walking ghost". While he appeared to be fine for a while, all of his cells were damaged and his death was certain.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book about a man named Ouchi whose chromosomes were destroyed by a blast of neutron rays while working in unsafe conditions in a uranium processing facility. For 83 days, a crack team of doctors, nurses, and medical experts from several countries try to keep him alive. Because Ouchi's chromosomes have been destroyed, his body cannot generate new cells to replace the dead ones. His skin falls off. His mucus membranes disappear. He is in constant pain. He suffers massive internal hemorrhages and the medical staff have to constantly pump fluids and nutrients into his body to keep him alive. His organs fail, one by one, and their functions are taken over by various medical apparatus. At various points, Ouchi's doctors and nurses question whether or not what they are doing is the right thing to do. That is to say, are they actually helping him, or are they just endlessly prolonging his agony?

This is a slim but tough book.It goes into gruesome but necessary detail about the deterioration of a human body afflicted by neutron beam radiation. It is told in a straightforward reportorial style that goes into thoroughgoing technical detail but not so much that the average reader cannot follow along. It also gives space to the emotional turmoil the medical staff underwent as they battled to keep Ouchi alive.

In some ways, this is a book about the dangers of atomic radiation, but it is also a strange kind of existential novel where the main character's mental state is largely unknown at the height of his suffering. Ouchi was under heavy sedation for much of his sickness and he was unable to communicate in any detail what his thoughts and feelings were. The book seems to suggest that had he been awake his suffering would've been monstrous. The medical staff did what they thought was best even in the face of a hopeless situation.

This is harsh story taken from real life and told in harrowing but necessary detail.
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This was always going to be a tough read but a compelling one as well, and that was how it turned out - I could scarcely put it down and it was gone in just a few hours read time, even though I already knew a lot about this and other similar cases. The disturbing discussion of this poor guy's irradiation and subsequent inevitable death will be tough reading for some, but the author sticks to medical fact for the most part and we are spared some of the more emotionally harrowing stuff that no doubt unfolded. I think what sticks with me is the incredible naivety of these nuclear workers. For the irradiated man to ask after his skin had started to fall off "will I get leukemia from this" or words to that effect was profoundly disturbing, such was their lack of understanding about what they were doing or the forces they were playing with. Ultimately I wanted to find out who was held responsible for this terrible accident and what what happened to them, but the scope of the book perhaps didn't allow for this. All in all, this was a great read and will fascinate anyone who wants to uncover more about these highly unusual radiological incidents. An excellent read.
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This book is a very sad account of the accident that claimed the lives of both Masato Shinohara and Hashashi Ouchi . The book only tells the horrifying tell of Ouchi's slow and painful death. How doctors either couldn't or wouldn't admit that he was a dead man. They saw letting him die as a dishonor so they keep him alive for 83 days even though he wanted his suffering to end much sooner claiming he was not their guinea pig. And how the doctors gave the family false hope that he would recover so they keep letting the doctors continue experimenting on him to keep him alive as long as possible. Not a lot of pictures so you don't see his complete deterioration. If you're squeamish this book is NOT for you. But if you want to read a get to the point book that doesn't mince words it's a great read.
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