Reviews for Erasing Death : The Science That Is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life and Death


Choice Reviews 2013 October
Erasing Death provides compelling evidence that death is a process, not a moment. Cell death in the brain and liver can go on for hours after the heart stops. When then, does one say a person has reached the point of permanent death? The new frontier in cardiac resuscitation focuses on prolonging the state where cells are still viable (by cooling the body) and buying time to reverse whatever underlying condition caused the cardiac arrest so as to improve survival rate. Achieving maximum survival benefit with quality functioning also requires teamwork and attention to postresuscitation care. Worldwide, there is much variation in survival rates, and education of health professionals about resuscitation is not adequate. Parnia (director, AWARE study; Stony Brook Univ.) asks if bringing people back to life involves more than pushing back time boundaries, but also if future criteria for defining death should include consideration of when a person's consciousness, psyche, or soul are lost and cannot be retrieved. Advances in resuscitation science demonstrate that there is a significant period of time after death in which death is fully reversible, and as science progresses, limitations will continuously be challenged. Overall, a fascinating book, well documented with 50 pages of citation. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Two-year Technical Program Students; Professionals/Practitioners. L. K. Strodtman emerita, University of Michigan Copyright 2013 American Library Association.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 January #2
A pioneer in the field of critical-care medicine poses the profound question: "What does the recovery of consciousness after the complete cessation of heartbeat and brain function" tell us about the relationship between the mind and body in the process of dying? With the assistance of Young (co-author, with Howie Mandel: Here's the Deal: Don't Touch Me, 2009, etc.), Cornell Medical Center doctor Parnia (What Happens When We Die, 2005, etc.) explains that modern medicine now has the potential to bring people back to life after they have suffered cardiac arrest and ensure that they do not suffer brain damage as a result. Using the space program as a model, Parnia suggests the need for a global effort to ensure optimal standards of care available to everyone. He reviews the development of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and up-to-date treatments using mechanical compression devices, cooling body temperature to slow the process of cell decay and administering drugs to increase blood pressure. The problem is that most medical professionals are not technically trained on the most advanced practices, and hospitals are under financial pressure to limit CPR. Nonetheless, Parnia is optimistic that such innovations as direct intravenous infusion of oxygen molecules will cheapen costs. Since it is now possible to resuscitate people who would previously have been pronounced dead, the question then arises: When does death occur? Death is not an event, writes the author, but a process that is sometimes reversible. This idea leads him to question the implications of near-death or after-death experiences. While they do not in themselves substantiate any religious beliefs, there are too many documented cases to be ignored. People from diverse cultures who hold different religious beliefs, including atheism, describe many common features, such as seeing a bright light and a guiding figure, and out-of-body experiences. A fascinating discussion that addresses medical, moral and social issues and their implications for understanding consciousness, self-awareness and the soul. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 April #1

Parina's (medicine, Univ. of Southampton, UK) provocative book explores advances in "resuscitation science," i.e., the techniques health-care providers employ to restore function to a heart that has stopped. Advances in the practice allow individuals who have been without heart function for longer and longer periods to be restored to life without subsequent damage. These advances, Parina argues, should alter our current understandings of the relationship between the body and consciousness, since people who have been clinically dead can be brought back to life. He explores what have traditionally been called near-death experiences, renaming them "actual death experiences" because many of those who supposedly have them have stopped breathing or having heart function. Some of those who are said to have been brought back report meeting loved ones or a God who affirms their religious beliefs. The last part of the book describes Parina's AWARE study, an attempt to scientifically measure, using objects located in a standard hospital room, what people see during an actual death experience, as well as limitations of the study. VERDICT Part philosophy, part medicine, and always thought-provoking, this book will appeal to readers interested in near-death experiences, views of the afterlife, and end-of-life care.--Aaron Klink, Duke Univ., Durham, NC

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 March #1

Returning intact from experiences humans could not previously survive fascinates Parnia, director of the AWARE Study and critical care medicine specialist. Formerly the provenance of soap operas and B-grade horror movies, resuscitation from the dead is possible after "ten minutes without a heartbeat," an old estimate of when one's essence would be lost to permanent brain damage. The more we can reverse death the less we can define it; death no longer refers to a specific moment, but a process we can interrupt at key intervals. Parnia advocates "erasing" death, an effort so radical it could obliterate human life. Collecting testimonials describing the so-called "other side," he combines "revelations"--retained sensory memories and perceptions of movement--with traditional scientific methods to examine breakdowns in human systems, seeking critical links that, if restored, forestall dying. What happens when bodies live again, but are still likely to die from medical problems? Scientists push to comprehend consciousness when neurons don't fire, but cannot explain why near-death experiences are "luminous" for some while resulting in depression in others. While "resuscitation science" is not new, its progress extends ethical dilemmas about when medical ability should be used to restore life. (Mar.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

Returning intact from experiences humans could not previously survive fascinates Parnia, director of the AWARE Study and critical care medicine specialist. Formerly the provenance of soap operas and B-grade horror movies, resuscitation from the dead is possible after "ten minutes without a heartbeat," an old estimate of when one's essence would be lost to permanent brain damage. The more we can reverse death the less we can define it; death no longer refers to a specific moment, but a process we can interrupt at key intervals. Parnia advocates "erasing" death, an effort so radical it could obliterate human life. Collecting testimonials describing the so-called "other side," he combines "revelations"--retained sensory memories and perceptions of movement--with traditional scientific methods to examine breakdowns in human systems, seeking critical links that, if restored, forestall dying. What happens when bodies live again, but are still likely to die from medical problems? Scientists push to comprehend consciousness when neurons don't fire, but cannot explain why near-death experiences are "luminous" for some while resulting in depression in others. While "resuscitation science" is not new, its progress extends ethical dilemmas about when medical ability should be used to restore life. (Mar.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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