Science Book a Day Interviews David Casarett


Special thanks to David Casarett for answering 6 questions about his recently featured book – Shocked: Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead

David Casarett, M.D., is a physician, researcher, and tenured professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. His studies have included more than ten thousand patients and have resulted in more than one hundred articles and book chapters, published in leading medical journals such as the Journal of the American Medical Association and The New England Journal of Medicine. – From David’s Homepage

David’s Homepage:

#1 – What was the impetus for Shocked?

As I explain in the first chapter, I was struck by very different results of two patients. One was a girl whose story was widely reported in the media–a 2 1/2 year old whose heart stopped for 3 hours, but then was revived and went on to lead a normal life. But another patient–someone I took care of–didn’t do so well. He was revived, but spend two weeks in an intensive care unit before he died. So I wanted to learn about what advances in resuscitation are accomplishing.

#2 – How did you go about the research for this book? It reads a bit like a travelogue.

It was, in a sense. There are a lot of travel writers who I very much admire, like Paul Theroux and Jonathan Raban and Australia’s very own Tony Horwitz. And I think the best travel writing comes with both adventurs and mistakes. I tried to use that in telling the stories of my own adventures and misadventures.

#3 – You certainly throw yourself into your work. Why did you assume the corpse position and allow yourself to be taken on a horse-ride?

I was curious to see how that might have helped to keep a drowning victim alive. Or at least how someone might have thought it was a good idea. (It’s not).

#4 – When I heard about your book, I immediately thought of that film Flatliners. Was the science they portrayed anything close to the research you looked at?

Close, but misguided. Why on earth would you want to push the limits of staying dead? Every minute without oxygen damages brain cells. Not something I’d recommend to a bunch of medical students.

#5 – Has the process of writing this book changed the way you look at death or dying?

I’m much more sympathetic to patients near the end of life who say they want aggressive treatment, including CPR. I’ve begun to appreciate why it seems so simple and effective, even though it’s anything but.

#6 – Are you working on any new projects/books you can tell us about?

Sure–next up is a book about medical marijuana, from a doctor’s perspective. It’s called Stoned: A Doctor Makes the Case for Medical Marijuana, and it will be published by Penguin Random House in May of 2015

[Image Credit: Joe-Chielli-Church-Street-Studios-Philadelphia, ]