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Cheating Death: The Doctors and Medical Miracles that Are Saving Lives Against All Odds Paperback – Bargain Price, October 11, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
High-profile physician-journalist Gupta—a medical reporter for CNN and columnist for Time who declined President Obama's nomination to be surgeon general—knows a great story when he hears one, and in this collection he rolls out extraordinarily harrowing and inspiring tales from the annals of they-ought-to-be-dead. When there is an injury, a heart attack or any loss of oxygen to the brain, time is the essential factor in determining whether a patient will live. For instance, therapeutic hypothermia, by reducing the brain's need for oxygen immediately after a trauma, allows more time for treatments to work. Gupta also notes that lives can be saved through incremental changes to current medical techniques rather than revolutionary breakthroughs. Eliminating the breathing component from CPR and concentrating only on chest compressions has been shown to raise heart attack survival rates to an unheard-of 20%. The achievements are stunning, though Gupta notes none of the exciting medical changes that we've come across will eliminate the sense of awe and mystery that stalks our notions of death. Yet it's beyond comforting to know there are doctors who simply refuse to quit a brave but ultimately losing battle to wrestle control over death. (Oct. 12)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"You will be on the edge of your seat as you read the superbly crafted stories of people who have beaten the odds, something I like to think I know quite a bit about. My friend Dr. Sanjay Gupta, America's doctor, has written a page-turner. It's an exciting medical thriller with the compassion, hope, excitement and aspiration that define Sanjay." --Lance Armstrong
"Dr. Gupta's new book is not only fascinating, it reads like a fast-paced adventure story, and it is. Full of literally heart-stopping moments, CHEATING DEATH is an account of modern-day scientific miracles, most of which would have been unthinkable a decade or two ago, and which expand the very boundaries of life itself." --Oliver Sacks
"I owe my recovery and my health to medical advances and the remarkable pioneers behind them. In his new book, the World's Doctor, Sanjay Gupta, delivers a breathtaking preview of a coming revolution in medicine that challenges virtually everything we think we know about living and dying. A truly provocative and fascinating reading experience." --President Bill Clinton
"Sanjay Gupta melds dramatic stories of people on the cusp of death rescued by life-saving advances. This book deeply touches the heart and enlightens the mind." --Jerome Groopman, M.D., Recanati Professor, Harvard Medical School, Author of How Doctors Think
"In Cheating Death, Dr. Sanjay Gupta chronicles a series of scientific advances that are saving patients' lives in striking and almost unfathomable ways. This is a wonderful book....All who read it will walk away feeling a sense of joy in the changes that Dr. Gupta so carefully and warmly details." --Henry S. Friedman, MD, James B. Powell, Jr. Professor of Neuro-Oncology; Deputy Director, The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center
"Dr. Gupta has masterfully woven compelling human stories and medical drama that intersect that narrow line separating life from death. The brave doctors who courageously defy conventional wisdom and embrace bold science and the human condition will have you cheering and shaking your head in amazement." --Nancy L. Snyderman, M.D., NBC News Chief Medical Editor; Associate Professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, University of Pennsylvania
Top Customer Reviews
Gupta tells us about a man who is diagnosed with a brain tumor that is almost invariably fatal; a fetus with a life-threatening heart defect; a skier who falls through the ice and remains trapped beneath its surface for over forty minutes; and a hiker who stumbles, hits his head, and remains on the ground for twenty-four days before he is rescued. The story of these and other individuals demonstrates "that the human body can survive far longer than we usually bargain for." There are various techniques, such as therapeutic hypothermia, that can buy valuable time for those in extremis by staving off shock, controlling blood flow, and reducing the body's need for oxygen. Are these methods guaranteed to work every time, and are they used in every hospital? Absolutely not. However, researchers are constantly investigating new lifesaving protocols, some of which hold great promise.
The author's writing style, although not jargon-free, is accessible, lively, and engrossing. In addition, Gupta's revealing interviews with the pioneers of resuscitative medicine suggest that certain experimental practices may someday become part of mainstream emergency care. Although the book has extensive endnotes, it lacks an index, which would have been useful. In addition, Gupta does not adequately explain the differences between "brain death" and "persistent vegetative state," terms that are unclear to most laymen. Nevertheless, "Cheating Death" does offer an exciting look at the various ways in which "doctors and medical miracles ...are saving lives against all odds."
This is a great book.
If one has an interest in the “behind-the-scenes” medical efforts currently underway across the country which are fervently attempting to extend life, then this text should be considered required reading.
Far more than a boring review of innovative medical practices – which would place almost anyone in snooze-mode – a variety of interesting tales are rehearsed of individuals found in the most dire of straits, who through some medical sleight of hand, get a chance at continuing life.
Nonetheless, as this is a Bible-based review, herein the focus will be on two significant conflicts between the text and the Bible. In Gupta’s defense, however, he openly states, “I don’t spend a lot of time talking about faith. I was never formally trained in the interplay between the type of healing we think of in hospitals and the type of healing that takes place in private, deep in the recesses of our minds. Yet over time, I have come to deeply appreciate the place of prayer in the healing process.” (page 211)
Note the following quotes from the text:
“His heart pumped no blood, his brain sent no signals, he thought no thoughts. Make no mistake – this is death. But maybe not the way we tend to think about it.” (page xv)
“…she had been clinically dead for three hours…” (page 8) and later, it is noted that “…she returned from the dead.” (page 15)
“Mertz was back from the dead.” (page 41)
“He truly was dead, and here he is, fine.” (page 56)
Quoting Mark Roth, “‘Clinical death’ might be the loss of a heartbeat… I turn off the heartbeat so they are clinically dead. But I can bring them back. So they must not have been dead….” (page 92, see also page 123)
“Brain death versus cardiac death.” (page 126)
“They’re talking about brain death.” (page 140) “…but true brain death is something else. It means that not only higher brain areas are wiped out, but also the brain stem, which is the seat of functions like breathing and heartbeat.” (page 143)
“This marks the third step toward death, the metabolic phase.” (page 44)
Therefore, we have clinical death, brain death, brain stem death, cardiac death, and just plain old dead. None of these delineations, however, adequately address what is occurring in or with the human body, as it lies motionless on the gurney, and the on-site doctors scratch their collective heads wondering on whom they will blame this most recent… “death”. The reason for this is very simple; doctors will typically read medical journals, texts, and pharmaceutical manuals without end, but to find a doctor who has actually read “The Owner’s Manual”, the English Bible (KJV), is a rarity indeed.
In fact, a typical doctor’s unwavering faith in himself as the supreme all-powerful healer is his unfortunate patient’s biggest threat. For example, Gupta – no doubt, an accomplished physician – admits (see quote above) that he has received “no formal training” in this field of study (Bible, faith, or apparently anything to do with The Book). Therefore, consider this, your recently purchased shiny new Toyota, for example, only seldom starts and never exceeds 20 mph. You take it to the dealer where you purchased it, and not only do they not have a current repair manual covering your specific model, but the rep states that he has “no formal training” in the repair of Toyotas, while he stands amidst a storage lot with no less than eighty shiny new models waiting to be delivered. He is, however, a specialist in model railroads. He suggests, even insists, that your car should be fine. “Do not worry,” he implores.
Likewise, as doctors stumble about in the dark vainly trying to define death based on the feeble instruments the good doctor has purchased or invented, men, women, and children die needlessly. As a point of fact, quality instruments – when functioning correctly – measure only those characteristics for which they were designed to measure. Herein the problem is presented in detail, the line between life and death is measured neither by man’s instruments nor by his cunning. This is exclusively the realm discussed in the Bible. Yes, the same Book that is seldom if ever read by any doctor of any branch of medical expertise. And when things do go bad, as they so often do, you will hear one of several pat, but frequently rehearsed, remarks: “Oh, Mrs. Jones, we did the best we could;” “Oh, Mr. Smith, if you could only have gotten here a little sooner,” or “There was just nothing we could do.” And never once was “The Owner’s Manual” consulted, much less, the Author of said Manual.
Note from the English Bible:
Genesis 3:19, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
Ecclesiastes 12:7 “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”
Luke 16:22, “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom…”
Luke 16:23 “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.”
Of the biblical condition known as “death,” then, one finds the term biblically defined as the separation of the three disparate parts of man. Man is a tri-partite being (consisting of three parts); he has a body, a spirit, and a soul. At death, the earthly body begins to deteriorate almost immediately regardless of man’s measures to slow or halt the process. At death, the spirit returns to God without respect as to whether the individual occupying said body was a “good guy” or otherwise. At death, the soul is either transported to Heaven to be reunited as a tri-partite being with a new “bod”, or it is immediately present in Hell. Herein the heart of the problem is, again, defined. Man has not the least understanding of when God separates these three distinct parts of man. In fact, many doctors even debate the point as to whether man has a spirit or soul. Thus, he continues to mistakenly identify the dead as living, or the living as dead.
Let us then be clear of one fact, no one – but no one – dies and lives again without the direct intervention of God Himself. The Bible includes the accounts of 8-10 events when someone clearly was dead but was reanimated. (In two of the events it is clear that something unique transpired, but it is not actually stated that a death occurred. Thus, those two events are debated.) Three more are yet future. And to be sure, a thorough explanation of each is beyond the scope of a review.
To be even clearer, once God’s words define a particular term, no one else’s opinion or input is of any consequence.
[Note: On page 254 Gupta cites Kastenbaum who references some un-named Islamic source which in turn confuses body, spirit, and soul. This is an error that could have been avoided by reading The English Bible.]
The point is, then, that Christ’s Church supports any and all efforts at extending life, but we should be clear of the subject being discussed. Life is being extended; life is not be restarted. Death – excepting the biblical cases cited – is a one-time event. It should also be noted that the manipulation of genes with the goal of creating an entity from whom “spare parts” may be “harvested” is exclusively prohibited.
Hebrews 9:27-28, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”
POINT NUMBER ONE, THEN, IS MODERN SCIENCE FAILS TO ADEQUATELY DEFINE DEATH WHILE FERVENTLY STRUGGLING TO REVERSE THE PROCESS.
POINT NUMBER TWO IS THE POWER OF PRAYER AS IT PERTAINS TO THE MEDICAL REALM.
Gupta remarks, “As a scientist, I am bound to try and explain these rare phenomena, as opposed to simply accepting them as divine intervention or something totally inexplicable.” (page 215)
Herbert Benson – a Harvard cardiologist – may be credited with the most ill-conceived scientific study ever designed. Over 1,800 cardiac patients spread out over six hospitals were the subject of a study to determine if prayer was a beneficial factor or not in cardiac care. In short, the “control group” received no prayer – theoretically, while the “test group” received prayer specifically aimed at a quick problem-free recovery. Those who prayed were defined as “three Christian groups”. (page 212) Then, to quote Gomer Pyle, “Surprise, surprise, surprise…”, there was no significant difference between the two groups. In fact, those who might have benefited from prayer were arguably in worse condition than their “unprayed for” counterpart.
Now then, here is where reading “The Owner’s Manual” comes in handy.
James 5:16, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
First, it is impossible in the extreme to have a “control group” as is a requirement in any type of serious experimentation. Assuming that the groups were roughly equally divided (the text does not state as much), it is not possible to ensure that no one prayed for the “no prayer group”. To find 900 individuals – chosen at random – among whom not one is a Christian, not one has a Christian mother, grandmother, dad, grandfather, or child who is daily seeking the Lord’s intervention is not even plausible. Moreover, what of non-relatives? Maybe the little old granny down the street, who is homebound, with no company but her six cats, heard about this “no prayer” non-sense and dedicated herself to prayer just to benefit those for whom there would be no prayer. For example, the more that I hear that a particular person is beyond hope, the more likely that person will get prayed for in earnest several times a day.
Or closer to home… let’s see, the US Supreme Court outlawed prayer in public schools. Did kids stop praying? Of course not. As long as there are exams in schools there will be prayer in schools.
Therefore, trying to measure and define death without a Bible is just as haphazard an undertaking as the ill-conceived experiment set forth by Benson.
Nonetheless, this is still a good book that addresses a variety of related interesting fields of study. For example, Gupta’s work on Near Death Experiences (NDEs) far and away exceeds the efforts of Dr. Raymond Moody (which I have also read), whose work is quoted within the text. (Chapter Four) Also, “the being of light” is discussed (He is not your friend.). (page 99) Suspended animation is briefly touched upon. (page 69) And even cryonics gets a fair treatment within the text. (pages 36 and 250)
The best quote of the text is found on page 53, “When 97 percent of the patients died, how could they do worse?”
I agree completely.
As noted above, the only biblical conflicts are in areas where Gupta admits having not studied the relevant material. Come on guys! The Bible is One Book. Surely you can find time to read One Book!
Read the Bible!
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