Shocked: Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead

Shocked: Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead

by David Casarett


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781591846710
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/31/2014
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

David Casarett, M.D., is a physician, researcher, and tenured associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. His studies have included more than ten thousand patients and have resulted in more than one hundred articles and book chapters, published in leading medical journals such as the Journal of the American Medical Association and The New England Journal of Medicine. His many awards include the prestigious U.S. Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

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The Big Mac Rule of Resuscitation and the Search for the Limits of Life

When I was a kid, long before I contemplated going to medical school, the television in our living room was the sole source of all of my medical knowledge. Before I ever dissected a cadaver or listened to a heart, shows like M*A*S*H; St. Elsewhere; Doogie Howser, MD; Chicago Hope; and ER taught me how to be a doctor. Specifically, they taught me that doctors are firm, decisive, quick-thinking, and almost always successful.

Television also taught me how to bring someone back to life. Fortunately, that was a simple lesson for an eight-year-old. The television version of resuscitation followed a script that was mercifully predictable, and that predictability was helpfully marked by several reliable guideposts along the way.

First, someone’s heart would stop. That cessation of a heartbeat was usually heralded by unmistakable signs, including but not limited to gasping, choking, eye rolling, and chest clutching.

Next, and typically without any discernible delay whatsoever, everyone within hailing distance would descend on the newly dead character. One of these self-appointed rescuers would then place two hands on the character’s chest and bounce up and down heroically. It was also at about this point that another rescuer—usually a tall, handsome doctor—performed a strange sort of kissy procedure with his mouth, guaranteed to provoke slack-jawed fascination in a boy not yet in middle school, especially if the victim was a woman. Finally, if the episode were really top-notch, someone would produce a pair of paddles, apply them to the victim’s chest, and yell, “Clear!” (At some point, I developed the unshakable conviction that this shouted incantation had some ill-defined yet essential electrical effect on the victim’s heart. I have a hazy recollection of standing over my freshly late hamster one sad morning and yelling, “Clear!” repeatedly in hopes of encouraging little Frankie to rejoin the living. Alas, Frankie was unfamiliar with the rules of televised resuscitations, and he remained persistently and unambiguously deceased.)

Then there would be a strategic yet wholly incongruous commercial break, after which we’d be back in the thick of things. On cue, the victim would tire of being kissed by a tall, handsome doctor and would wake up. Or, occasionally—and just for variety’s sake—the handsome doctor would tire of kissing a person who was becoming increasingly dead. Then he would stand up, say something solemn, and stride off purposefully toward the next crisis.

It was thanks to these scenes that I developed a deep and lasting impression of how resuscitation works when people try to die. For instance, I came to believe that resuscitation works. Maybe not always, but almost always. It seemed as though even if you were dead, as long as there was a good-looking doctor nearby, you wouldn’t be dead for long.

I also became convinced that if resuscitation is going to work, it’s going to work very, very fast. A perceptive watcher of these shows would conclude that the fate of a newly dead person is determined in the span of time that it takes to learn about the merits of cookies made by Keebler Elves or a sing-along of the McDonald’s Big Mac jingle. Let’s call this the Big Mac rule of resuscitation. By then, your victim is probably wide-awake and hugging the rescuers. If she isn’t, then you might as well switch channels.

So I persisted in my fantasies about resuscitation for quite some time.

But then a girl named Michelle died.

Table of Contents

1 The Big Mar, Rule of Resuscitation and the Search fur the Limits of Life 1

2 Why Amsterdam Used to Be a Good Place to Commit Suicide 13

3 The lce Woman Meets the Strange New Science of Resuscitation 45

4 Science Fiction, Space Travel, and Suspended Animation 87

5 The Deep-Freeze Future: Cryonauts Venture to the Frontiers of Immortality 139

6 Crowdsourcing Survival 175

7 When Is "Dead" Really Dead? Listen for the Violins 223

Acknowledgments 237

Notes 239

Index 253

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“A specialist in end-of-life care at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Casarett has produced a travelogue about as comprehensive as possible without actually dying... His guide to the process of hauling passengers back up the exit ramp is fascinating.”
—New York Times
“[Casarett] traces the colorful history of efforts to revive the dead with meticulous reporting and humor”
—Washington Post
“An exciting, firsthand account of scientific research whose implications are relevant to every living person.”
—THE FUTURIST magazine
“Entertaining, informative, and at times, electrifying.”
“Casarett accessibly reveals the work being done that may enable us to sleep far more, and so travel far further—in both place and time—than we ever dreamed.”
Publishers Weekly
“With a keenly-honed sense of true curiosity and a killer wit, the author gamely goes from mortuary to museum and back to look deeply at how “dead” is maybe not really dead these days. He melds old-school myth with modern technology to see why lives are saved (or not), and his irreverent comments and hilarious observances give the title of his book a wicked double meaning… Death is a trip we’ll all take, and some of us will be lucky enough to return with minimal souvenirs. If you’re ready to laugh in the face of that, then reading “Shocked” should be your aim.”
Terry Schlichenmeyer, “The Bookworm” in The Killeen Daily Herald

“A fascinating, well-written, and gripping book by a leading physician that takes readers through the incredible journey of resuscitation science. I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about the new medical ‘miracles’ that are helping humankind fight death and preserve life.”
Sam Parnia, MD, author of Erasing Death

Shocked is by turns heartbreaking and hilarious. But more than that, it’s an important book that should force an urgent discussion of the hairline border between alive and dead, and the incredible ethical (and economic) questions we face as technology redraws that boundary.”
David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene

“If you think the line between life and death is a bright one, think again. In Shocked, end-of-life care expert David Casarett takes us on an informative, provocative, and useful tour of the state of the art in attempting to resuscitate the dead and bring them back to life. This is not the stuff of frozen heads, bright lights at the ends of tunnels, and bodies being cloned. It is a review of the best and sometimes worst of what real medicine has to offer and there is a no more lively, engaging, and sensible guide.”
Art Caplan, author of Smart Mice, Not So Smart People

“Dr. Casarett writes from his heart and demystifies the art and science of resuscitation. His humor, poignancy, and intrigue make this book a must-read!”
Kathy E. Magliato, MD, MBA, FACS, author of Heart Matters

“From the early days of CPR to the latest science on the cryogenic preservation of human life, Casarett takes us on an entertaining exploration into the void that separates life and death. Shocked is a great read.”
David Dosa, MD, author of Making Rounds with Oscar

Shocked is a compelling and fascinating account of the history, current practice, and hopes for the future of resuscitation. I enjoyed it immensely.”
Mickey Eisenberg, MD, author of Life in the Balance

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Shocked: Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This should be required reading for everyone. Planning is the key point to be taken from this book. It was well researched and written to be an easy read. For a follow up I recommend Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago