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The Undead: Organ Harvesting, the Ice-Water Test, Beating Heart Cadavers--How Medicine Is Blurring the Line Between Life and Death 1st Edition

2.7 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0375423710
ISBN-10: 0375423710
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Editorial Reviews

Review

 
“This disturbing, often hilarious book raises many critical questions about deadness.”
   —The New York Times Book Review

“An indefatigable researcher and fluid writer, Mr. Teresi provides a good long riff on death past and present.”
   —The New York Times

The Week Magazine Author of the Week (03/21/2012)

"The moment of death, suggests science writer Dick Teresi, is harder to pin down than ever...Charting historical definitions of death, the thinking of research greats and debates over near-death experiences, Teresi notes that the ethical challenges are immense, asking, for instance, whether all organ donors are unrevivable."
   —Nature

“…Chilling, controversial, and, at times, comical commentary on physical death…All sorts of experts—on coma, animal euthanasia, and execution—as well as undertakers, organ transplant staff, neurologists, ethicists, and lawyers weigh-in on the death debate.”
    —Tony Miksanek, Booklist

“Like a real-life version of Robin Cook’s medical thriller Coma, Teresi paints a grisly picture of organ harvesting and raises uncomfortable questions: Is the donor actually dead rather than at the point of death? Might he or she be revived given time and proper medical attention? …Provocative… [An] examination of important ethical issues and the still-unresolved question of what constitutes death.”
    —The Kirkus Review

“Reading Dick Teresi’s book is like discovering that your college class has been hijacked by the spitball-lobbing kid in the back row—and that the kid is twice as smart as the prof ever was. Taking on biologists, philosophers, and the medical establishment, Teresi zestfully skewers our confused thinking about life, death, and the states in between. The Undead is a rarity: a superserious examination of a profound subject that is a pleasure to read.”
   —Charles C. Mann, author of 1493 and 1491
  
“As I was pulled into this startling, informative account of death-defying and death-defining, I couldn’t help putting a checkmark in the margin next to every line that made me gasp—or laugh—or marvel at Dick Teresi’s bold, inimitable reporting style. On some pages I made as many as four checkmarks. The book left me reeling at the welter of uncertainty that surrounds the certainty of death.”
   —Dava Sobel, author of Longitude and A More Perfect Heaven

About the Author

Dick Teresi is the coauthor of The God Particle and the author of Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science, both selected as New York Times Book Review Notable Books. He has been the editor in chief of Science Digest, Longevity, VQ, and Omni, and has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic, among other publications.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (March 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375423710
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375423710
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.3 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #557,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Press on April 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I've just read the entire book, unlike many of the negative reviewers.
Nowhere does Mr. Teresi claim that the people involved in this field aren't compassionate or sensitive (with a few exceptions). He does, however, cite enough published acientific work to support his thesis that decisions are made based on false or untested assumptions. He also claims that those who are in the position of declaring people dead are often misinformed or careless about the proper procedures. Studies in other areas have shown that doctors believe they are following protocol much more often than they actually are, with unfortunate results. If those who work in the field are convinced otherwise let them show studies that contradict this.
This book is well written, although I did occasionally feel that he as being sensationalist. Mr. Teresi also bases some claims on facilitated communication, a method whose scientific merit is highly questionable. Still, the studies cited to support his claims demand an informed response, not the emotional pleas of caregivers, transplant recipients and others who feel that the good of transplants supercedes any of the legitimate issues raised in tis book.
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This bracing book manages to entertain, even amuse, while exploring the disturbingly interconnected, undeniably fascinating subjects of death, near death, "brain death," coma, consciousness, paralysis, pain and organ donation. Early on, lost count of OMG moments. It's is a game changer, or should be, raising as it does the possibility that organ harvesting has occurred when or in ways it should not have. (Brought to mind the spectre of executed convicts later proved innocent by DNA evidence.) As if Teresi hasn't already made a case for extreme caution in declaring "brain death," he saves for the end the shocking financial incentives that underlie this widening corner of the medical-industrial complex. The sassy style masks a deadly serious message -- one that clearly has rattled many fellow "reviewers"; their panicky protests seem inadvertently to support the book's thesis rather than undermine it. How Teresi executed this book without invoking "Oy'm not dead yet" from Month Python, or Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go" is a little mystifying, but perhaps admirable...
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I have noticed that among the gentry not every Richard can be called Dick. This is an unusual case in which Dick is the writer and Richard a mere resident of Amherst, MA. I was glad to see the book appear because I had wondered what new forms of hanky panky had emerged in the world of organ donation. The first clue that it was business as usual was when an elderly Chinese man handed me a pamphlet on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco describing a thriving organ-harvesting industry in the Peoples' Republic of China. But evidence is easy to refute. Some familiarity with human nature would lead one to posit that the demand for organs and the need to harvest them while the patient was still alive if he/she could be deemed brain dead might lead to what the author calls philosophical rather than medical determinations on just who is brain dead and who is not. The spectrum of criteria for admission is likely broad. Oh she can no longer wear a bikini and walk along the beach. Oh he has forgotten how to integrate in the complex plane. Finally I really liked the number of one and two stars the author drew from reviewers. That means he has something unusual and original to say.
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I am about to purchase this book after listening to the author discuss it on NPR. I will post a review on the book AFTER reading it.

In the interim, however, I find it intriguing that though the book was published on March 13, on that very same date it had already received 16 critical one-star Amazon ratings. By March 16 (just 3 days later), there were an additional 14 one-star Amazon ratings - totaling 30. All this before the book could have possibly even been delivered to (much less read by) any of these "reviewers."

So what operation orchestrated that smear?

After reading the book, I may indeed conclude it stinks. Or I may appreciate the author's research and cautions. Or something in between. I won't know until I read and evaluate its content. (I'm giving it an initial 3 stars simply because Amazon reviews require a star selection in order to post. My stars rating may go up or down after reading it.)

We all have our biases. I do as well. At least read the material before you take shots at it rather than simply regurgitating the opinions of others telling you what you should write. Sheesh!

*******************************
Ok, it's 4 weeks later, and now having actually READ the book, here are my thoughts:

First, I have bumped up my overall opinion from an original "non-committal" of 3 stars to 4 stars. I wouldn't say this was a great read, but a pretty informationally compelling one - especially if you are or lean toward becoming an organ donor at death.

(As a side note, this book is nothing about donating organs while you are alive, such as donating one of your two kidneys for someone you match up with.
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