Reviews of Educational Material  |   September 2017
Modern Death: How Medicine Changed the End of Life
Author Notes
  • Department of Anesthesiology, Pain Management and Research Centers, School of Medicine, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • (Accepted for publication May 2, 2017.)
    (Accepted for publication May 2, 2017.)×
Article Information
Reviews of Educational Material / Palliative Care / End-of-Life Care
Reviews of Educational Material   |   September 2017
Modern Death: How Medicine Changed the End of Life
Anesthesiology 9 2017, Vol.127, 589-590. doi:10.1097/ALN.0000000000001716
Anesthesiology 9 2017, Vol.127, 589-590. doi:10.1097/ALN.0000000000001716
Hippocrates. Aristotle. Edgar Allan Poe. Henry Beecher. As author Dr. Haider Warraich points out, what these luminaries of science, philosophy, literature, and medicine had in common was an uncommon interest in the definition of death, or more aptly, when and how death actually occurred. These many years later, we still don’t know the answer to these profound questions. This is the central theme elaborated by Warraich, a physician-in-training just starting his career in cardiology. His writing has a compelling narrative style, à la House of God meets Being Mortal meets Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind.
Warraich weaves stories from his experiences as a medical resident in a busy urban intensive care unit (ICU) into an interesting admixture of biology lesson, history of medicine, social commentary, medical ethics review, and evolving policies and politics about dying in America. As he attempts to demystify dying and death (a brave but quixotic effort), he succeeds at illuminating how fear of death has positively influenced medical progress, resulting in a predictably longer life span for most people. Conversely, he points out in graphic detail—with images that rekindle the countless soul-wrenching experiences and memories of most physicians-in-training—how technology has influenced medicine, oftentimes driving physicians, patients, and their loved ones alike to counterproductive, harmful prolongation of dying.
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