Although the formal organization of When Death Becomes Life begins with the history of transplantation and then shifts to stories of individual patient experiences, the effect is that readers are first introduced to the endeavor’s scientific hurdles and then to its ethical quandaries ... In narrating the history, Mezrich renders a century of technical innovations as gripping as any gumshoe potboiler by Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett ... To his credit, Mezrich approaches these pioneers [of transplantation] with reverence, but also with a dispassionate eye. He is quick to call out conduct that strikes him as unseemly or even unethical ... Into these patient narratives, Mezrich masterfully weaves many of the most unsettling ethical questions surrounding modern transplantation ... The volume is also striking for its resounding eloquence, all the more remarkable for a physician writing a first book.
Mezrich, who tells jokes and plays Tupac in the operating room, walks readers through procedures step by gory step ... Readers will quickly become acquainted with medical terms...but the technical language is balanced by thrilling accounts of medical discoveries and the author's own surgeries. In writing about his life-saving career, Mezrich is both casual...and reverent ... He recognizes the great responsibility surgeons have and takes care to show the humanity in each patient, both organ donor and recipient.
Dr. Mezrich’s book braids unflinching medical history with frank clinical memoir ... Dr. Mezrich is at his best in explaining—sometimes with deep reservations—why different organs have different rules and ethical norms.
Transplant surgeon Mezrich...can replace a person's kidney; he can also write a well-paced book taking readers through complicated medical procedures with real-life examples filled with suspense ... Mezrich relieves the tension with humor, balancing clinical perspective with heart-rending stories, and through it all maintains enthusiasm and wonder at the process. This is not just a tale of doctors; patient and donor stories are also respectfully told. Ethical questions are further considered ... A great read for fans of narrative nonfiction, medicine, and real-life suspense stories.
Skillfully stitching medical memoir to medical history, transplant surgeon Mezrich ... [is]in awe of the anatomic beauty and physiologic brilliance of the organs that are transplanted—kidney, liver, heart, lung, and pancreas. He describes what a transplant operation looks like from the surgeon’s vantage ... Organ donors are the real heroes in Mezrich’s enlightening transplantation chronicle.
Readers will share the author’s exhilaration at the end of a procedure when, for example, the clamps are released, blood flow turns a new kidney pink, and urine flows out before his eyes. At intervals, the author digresses, offering a cogent history of transplants. These sections will enthrall most readers save animal rights proponents, who will recoil at the myriad of animals sacrificed along the way. ...
Medical memoirs have become a significant genre over the past two decades, and this one ranks near the top, in a class that includes arguably the best, Henry Marsh’s Do No Harm (2015).
Mezrich...delivers an attention-grabbing and candid look at human organ transplantation. Often pulse-quickening, sometimes stomach-churning, and always immersive, Mezrich’s descriptions of the complicated, time-sensitive process of transferring livers, kidneys, and other healthy organs from deceased donors to recipients use examples from his own work as a transplant surgeon. Numerous, well-integrated asides on the evolving trial-and-error of organ transplant, from the early days in the late 19th century through advances made during WWII and after, complement his personal stories ... Success through perseverance is this book’s main theme, and Mezrich does a commendable job sharing his death-to-life experiences in a vital field.