Harvard Book Store welcomes JOSHUA D. MEZRICH—associate professor of surgery at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health—for a discussion of his new book, When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon. He will be introduced by the bestselling author of The Accidental Billionaires and Bringing Down the House, BEN MEZRICH.
A gifted surgeon illuminates one of the most profound, awe-inspiring, and deeply affecting achievements of modern day medicine—the movement of organs between bodies—in this exceptional work of death and life that takes its place beside Atul Gawande’s Complications, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies, and Jerome Groopman’s How Doctors Think.
When Death Becomes Life is a thrilling look at how science advances on a grand scale to improve human lives. Mezrich examines more than one hundred years of remarkable medical breakthroughs, connecting this fascinating history with the inspiring and heartbreaking stories of his transplant patients. Combining gentle sensitivity with scientific clarity, Mezrich reflects on his calling as a doctor and introduces the modern pioneers who made transplantation a reality—maverick surgeons whose feats of imagination, bold vision, and daring risk-taking generated techniques and practices that save millions of lives around the world.
Mezrich takes us inside the operating room and unlocks the wondrous process of transplant surgery, a delicate, intense ballet requiring precise timing, breathtaking skill, and at times, creative improvisation. In illuminating this work, Mezrich touches the essence of existence and what it means to be alive. Most physicians fight death, but in transplantation, doctors take from death. Mezrich shares his gratitude and awe for the privilege of being part of this transformative exchange as the dead give their last breath of life to the living. After all, the donors are his patients, too.
When Death Becomes Life also engages in fascinating ethical and philosophical debates: How much risk should a healthy person be allowed to take to save someone she loves? Should a patient suffering from alcoholism receive a healthy liver? What defines death, and what role did organ transplantation play in that definition? The human story behind the most exceptional medicine of our time, Mezrich’s riveting book is a beautiful, poignant reminder that a life lost can also offer the hope of a new beginning.
“Although When Death Becomes Life is about courage and innovation and dedication, it is foremost a book about hope . . .This monumental and enthralling history of one of modern medicine’s most rousing triumphs is a definitive testament to that hope, and to the brave physicians and patients whose sacrifices made it possible.” —New York Journal of Books
“With When Death Becomes Life, Joshua Mezrich has performed the perfect core biopsy of transplantation—a clear and compelling account of the grueling daily work, the spell-binding history and the unsettling ethical issues that haunt this miraculous lifesaving treatment. Mezrich’s compassionate and honest voice, punctuated by a sharp and intelligent wit, render the enormous subject not just palatable but downright engrossing.” —Pauline Chen, M.D., author of Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality
“An outstanding memoir by a transplant surgeon who combines an autobiography and operating room dramatics with an equally engrossing history of his profession . . . Medical memoirs have become a significant genre over the past two decades, and this one ranks near the top, in a class that includes the best.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.