Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cheating Death by Sanjay Gupta, MD

Cheating Death by Sanjay Gupta, M.D.
Copyright 2009
Wellness Central - Nonfiction/Health/Medicine
(for the layperson)
282 pages, incl. substantial notes

I don't think Dr. Gupta needs a whole lot of help from me, since it appears that has been telling stories directly connected to his book (Poison Gas, New CPR), but I really enjoyed Cheating Death. Ominous weather is shoving me into quickie review mode, so this should be a brief one. How many of you are laughing? Okay, yeah, not good with brevity.

Cheating Death is subtitled "The Doctors and Medical Miracles that Are Saving Lives Against All Odds" and Gupta focuses on the new, the bold, the surprising treatments -- often those that are so unusual or go so wholly against the intuitive that the doctors who are trying to make lifesaving practices mainstream in the U.S. truly are having to battle to get approval or just to get people to listen. Take the new version of CPR (one such story of a life saved can be read by clicking on the "New CPR" link, above). I remember reading about the new guidelines for CPR and thinking, "No way." It seems counterintuitive that doing nothing but compressions -- not even bothering with a single pause to breathe air into a patients lungs -- would work, doesn't it? But, in states where the new form of compression-only CPR has become standard procedure, survival rates of heart attack victims have tripled. Tripled!! That's pretty amazing.

Gupta also talks about deliberate hypothermia to slow the bodily processes and buy time before a patient can arrive at medical facilities -- how it works, the dangers and how doctors who use hypothermia are trying to get it approved for cardiac patients. Other chapters describe attempts at mimicking the bodily processes that allow certain animals to hibernate and how applying those processes using gas to create a form of suspended animation may also buy time for a patient.

He talks about Near-Death Experiences, the different theories about how they can be explained scientifically rather than spiritually and why some physicians still believe in life after death. The story about a comatose man who remembered which doctor took out his dentures is quite an eye-opener. Gupta discusses surgery on fetuses and the controversy wrapped around the practice, how procedures have improved and the dangers.

And, he talks about miracles and the fine line between life and death -- how difficult it can be for doctors to determine whether or not a person will ever recover from a coma, for example. Is there any such thing as a miracle, he asks? Can cases in which a serious cancer suddenly disappears be explained away by viruses or genetics? There are a lot of questions remaining. Dr. Gupta doesn't mislead you into thinking any doctor knows everything; in fact, he reminds his readers that medical science is still a mix of science, guesswork, standard practices that don't fit every patient, and luck. He even talks about prayer and hope.

4/5 - Very good, a quick read that is well-written and often quite exciting. Occasionally, Gupta stops one story to back up and describe a process and then continues with it later. In that way, it can get a little jumpy but this is definitely a fascinating read that I highly recommend.

Since the book is black and white, this post desperately needs some color. Here you go:

Don't forget, I'm giving away 5 copies of this book, thanks to the generosity of Hatchette Book Group. The odds are really terrific, at this point.

Thanks to Anna and Hatchette for my review copy of Cheating Death!

Also, as I'm writing, we're 4 hours away from drawing time for the 5-book Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration drawing. I will close that drawing at 6PM, weather permitting. Look for a winners' list tonight or tomorrow morning (again, this is weather dependent, although the situation appears to be improving).


  1. I wondered if this book was readable and I'm glad to see it is. Great review.

  2. Kathy,

    It's very readable -- in fact, a breezy, quick read. Thanks!

  3. Great review, I'll throw my hat into the ring for a copy of it.

    Did he turn down the Surgeon General job? Idle curiosity.

  4. Carrie,

    Thank you! I have no idea. I've never paid a bit of attention to Sanjay Gupta, although that's really because I don't watch TV. One would think the man hasn't got the extra time to be Surgeon General, but he seems to be a whirlwind.

    Could you please sign up at the giveaway post so I don't miss you?

  5. Wow, this book sounds awesome! I heard about the case of the woman who stopped breathing in her sleep and the hubs used the chest compressions and the EMTs used the cooling blanket. Craziness! Would love to win a copy.

  6. Hey Andiloo!

    I really enjoyed Cheating Death. In fact, I feel as if I'm going to have to look up his first book. Like I need that. You know how it works. Could you do me a favor and comment at the drawing post? I know where to find you, but just to make sure I don't miss you. :)

  7. Please enter me!

    dancealert at aol dot com


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