In Death Interrupted, ICU doctor Blair Bigham shares his firsthand experiences of how medicine has complicated the way we die and offers a road map for dying in the modern era.
Doctors today can call on previously unimaginable technologies to help keep our bodies alive. In this new era, most organs can be kept from dying almost indefinitely by machines. But this unprecedented shift in end-of-life care has created a major crisis. In the widening grey zone between life and death, doctors fight with doctors, families feel pressured to make tough decisions about their loved ones, and lawyers are left to argue life-and-death cases in the courts. Meanwhile, intensive-care patients are caught in purgatory, attached to machines and unable to speak for themselves.
In Death Interrupted, based on a 2019 long-form article in The Walrus, “When Is Dead Actually Dead?”, Dr. Blair Bigham seeks to help readers understand the options facing them at the end of their lives. Through conversations with end-of-life professionals—including ethicists, social workers, and nurses and doctors who practise palliative care—and observations from his own time working in ambulances, emergency rooms, and the ICU, Bigham exposes the tensions inherent in this new era of dying and answers the tough questions facing us all. Because now, for the first time in human history, we may each have to choose how our own story ends.
BLAIR BIGHAM is a journalist, scientist, and attending emergency and ICU physician who trained at McMaster and Stanford universities. He was a Global Journalism Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs and an associate scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital. His work has appeared in The Walrus, the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, The New England Journal of Medicine, and the Canadian Medical Association Journal, among others.
Death Interrupted by Blair Bigham 5.5 x 8.5 / 272 pages / 978-1-4870-0854-3 / TPB / CAN/U.S. Pub date: September 20, 2022/House of Anansi Press/The Walrus Books. Available to order now at thewalrus.ca/books.