A compassionate and informative treatment of a painful subject.

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THE CONVERSATION

A REVOLUTIONARY PLAN FOR END-OF-LIFE CARE

Harvard Medical School researcher Volandes, founder of Advance Care Planning Decisions, draws the curtain aside to reveal the painful realities of dying in a hospital setting.

Despite tremendous advances prolonging life, writes the author, “[b]y most accounts, [the] transformation of death from a natural process occurring at home to a medicalized event taking place outside the home has been disastrous.” Volandes explores the options open to patients and their families. Taking examples from his experiences as a physician, he describes how his perspective changed over time and how he has been able to help families make tough end-of-life decisions. Helping patients and their families anticipate their choices is important. Therefore, it is necessary to have an open conversation in advance regarding the alternatives—e.g., painful medical intervention to extend life or palliative treatment to ease a patient's last moments. “Without this open conversation about death,” writes the author, “patients are traumatized needlessly, leaving their families with the emotional scars of witnessing hyper-medicalized deaths of their loved ones.” Volandes references surprising results from a 2007 research study showing that patients who chose palliative care actually lived longer. He also cites a 2008 study that involved 332 patients who were suffering from advanced cancer. “The researchers found no evidence of distress or psychiatric illness in patients who had end-of-life discussions with their physicians,” he writes. Volandes describes how he prepared patients and their proxies for the kinds of decisions they would face as they sought an optimal balance between prolonging life and palliative care. In many cases, he would take them to intensive care units to witness end-of-life treatment. In the appendices, the author offers guidelines and resources available to families facing difficult end-of-life decisions.

A compassionate and informative treatment of a painful subject.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1620408544

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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