• When Death Becomes Life

  • Notes from a Transplant Surgeon
  • By: Joshua D. Mezrich
  • Narrated by: Josh Bloomberg
  • Length: 11 hrs and 2 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (228 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"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 spellbinding 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, author of Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality)

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

At the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Joshua Mezrich creates life from loss, transplanting organs from one body to another. In this intimate, moving work, he illuminates the field of transplantation that enables this kind of miracle to happen every day.

When Death Becomes Life is a thrilling look at how science advances on a grand scale to improve human lives. Mezrich examines more than 100 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 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 audiobook is a beautiful, poignant reminder that a life lost can also offer the hope of a new beginning.

©2019 Joshua D. Mezrich (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about When Death Becomes Life

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Memoir and history, beautifully written

When Death Becomes Life is an interesting memoir and history of organ transplantation from transplant surgeon Dr. Joshua Mezrich. While I enjoyed his writing about the history, researchers and physicians that brought us to this point in time with transplantations, I enjoyed his writing about his own background, how and why he became a transplant surgeon, and his own patients just as much or more. Dr. Mezrich always maintains an awareness and respect for the great gift that donors and their families are giving, and reminds readers of that often. I loved reading about the technical details of kidney transplants, but Dr. Mezrich also reminds the readers that even though it may be an almost-routine procedure, it is really never routine. He recounts his enthusiasm at seeing a kidney become pink with blood flow and begin producing urine, and also writes about heart, lung, liver, and pancreas transplants, and the inherent difficulties with them. I thoroughly enjoyed the chapter about how cyclosporine was discovered and what a huge difference it made in transplantations. After all, transplantation is as much about immunology as it is about surgical skill, and Dr. Mezrich recounts all of this in his thoroughly enjoyable book.

8 people found this helpful

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I admit I’m biased

The author was part of the greatest day of my life, as he removed my kidney so it could be transplanted into my sister. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but admit that my admiration for the author might have been a factor.

7 people found this helpful

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Phenomenal

Excellent narration excellent story excellent sequence of every topic related to transplant and it was just a phenomenal performance and I’m so sad it’s over

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Breath Taking!

I'm a living kidney donor, so when I heard about this book, it was a must have. Very fascinating, informative, and a tear jerker!

1 person found this helpful

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Understanding the art of transplant

For anyone who has received a transplant, who has been a donor, or is a family of either, this extensive history and experiences of a transplant Doctor is must listening.
The development of solid organ transplants has been built upon the shoulders of the pioneering doctors one by one. Mezrich’s story of each stage of the progress is presented in a clear understandable fashion.

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Inspired me to become an organ donor.

Inspired me to become an organ donor just in case my plan to use it until it completely falls apart fails.

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Enlightening

Absolutely loved this book! After reading, I have vowed to have more patience when donor alliance calls me 15 times during a 12 hour shift 😆.

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Beautiful and remarkable story. Great performance!

I was fascinated by this story and moved by its implications. Dr.Mezrich does a phenomenal job exposing the the hidden world of organ transplantation, detailing vividly the many triumphs and tragedies that make this field such a unique endeavor.

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Interesting Look into Transplants

Coming directly from a doctor who performs these transplants, this book is an interesting look into this medical procedure that saves or prolongs lives. His addition of the developmental history and the men who pioneered the techniques gives it substance and his personal experiences with patients make it empathetic.

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good mix of entertaining and informative.

The author gives a mix of the history of translation of organs and stories from his own life. It is a good med school motivator and my Gf, enjoyed the parts she heard. (My girlfriend does not enjoy the medical field.)

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  • Yazan Rawashdeh
  • 01-28-21

Excellent

Great book
Recommend it whole heartedly. Great mix of transplantation history and Dr. Mezrich’s vast experience as a renowned transplant surgeon. It follows in the line of other great books on the same topic such as “King of Hearts” and “Borrowing Life”.

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  • BryanS
  • 11-29-19

Excellent insight into all things transplantation

Anyone interested in transplantation this book is a great help. Deals with the history of transplantation and the pioneer's who lead the way as well as fascinating insight into the world of a surgeon.