THE OPEN HEART by N. Amosoff


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Professor Amosoff has an experimental clinic in Kiev where cybernetics and computers are applied to heart surgery; he also has invented two very advanced pieces of equipment, the ""artificial lung"" and the ""Extracorporeal Heart-Lung Circulation Machine."" This is a diary, external and internal, of two days two years apart. In the first part, two young girls die virtually on the table, in the second he salvages a brilliant scientist, while recording what he is doing--thinking. The former consists of a good many of the literally heart-stopping procedures, with the nervous, concentrated tension of all in attendance. (There is also a great deal of professional terminology: ""Pulse one hundred and ten with twinkling arrhythmia"" the gravity of which will escape the general reader.) As for the latter, the Professor is given to brooding, with a sad-sombre-Slavic intonation: should one save one life ""when the world stands on the brink of destruction""? with the extension of knowledge and the deification of the machine, what about God (in whom he does not believe)? what about conscience? what about personal responsibility and fallibility? Thus the open heart is not the patient's on the table, but the scientist-healer's tussling with rather self-evident truths and sometimes defeated by the application of his calling. Obviously a confirmed communist in the larger sense, his commentary on life outside his small white world is negligible (one pejorative comment on his American confreres--fixing fees while they patch up a victim). It's a difficult book to place: Amosoff, while genuinely sincere, is uneasy in his stance as a New Man but his reflections on the duality of his discipline are certainly unoriginal, marginal.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster