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A Life Worth Living: A Doctor's Reflections on Illness in a High-Tech Era
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A Life Worth Living: A Doctor's Reflections on Illness in a High-Tech Era

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  83 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Critical illness is a fact of life. Even those of us who enjoy decades of good health are touched by it eventually, either in our own lives or in those of our loved ones. And when this happens, we grapple with serious and often confusing choices about how best to live with our afflictions. "" "A Life Worth Living "is a book for people facing these difficult decisions. Robe ...more
Hardcover, 220 pages
Published September 2nd 2008 by Farrar Straus Giroux
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Apr 02, 2009 Anne marked it as to-read
Heard the authored interviewed on Fresh Air and will probably foist the book on my loved ones. Alternate title possibilities (mine): How to Avoid a Ventilator; Why Going Out on Morphine is a Good Thing. Well, you get the drift.
The author used case stories to illustrate points he wanted to make, and many of those points dealt with death and how to prepare for it. Perhaps it is merely a difference of opinion or he didn't make his point clearly, but the chapter that focused on organ donation disappointed me. He came off as strongly opposed to the process, expressing that the people from the organ donation organizations approached patients' families too quickly and that not enough effort was made to ensure the patient wou ...more
I first heard about this book on an NPR interview with the author. I believe there are two kinds of people who write books - those who are better writers than speakers and those who are better speakers than they are writers. This author definitely falls in to the latter category. He made a very good interviewee but his writing, although expressing the same views as in the interview is not nearly as compelling. That said, this is a book that tries to tackle several contentious issues in medical e ...more
I sped through A Life Worth Living: A Doctor’s Reflections on Illness in a High-Tech Era by Dr. Robert Martensen. The reason I sped through it was because I immediately realized that this was a book I’d probably want to purchase later just so that I could mark it up with notes. That in itself should give you an idea of how interesting I found this to be.

Martensen brought up so many fascinating and thought-provoking points that I don’t think it would be wise for me to attempt to discuss them inte
Elin gave me a copy of this for my birthday. ... I had not heard of Martnesen before this, but enjoyed the book. It is easy to read and extraordinarily well-informed. You finish the book imagining Martensen as a kind of ideal physician for a bright, thoughtful patient. However, I was not entirely sure for whom this book was intended: is it a kind of self-help book for alienated patients, a memoir, or a policy review? With respect to his policy recommendations, I found his diagnoses more trenchan ...more
As a family nurse practitioner, a previous trauma nurse, and a short stint as a hospice nurse, I could relate to much of what Dr Martensen wrote. He has a true sense of the humanity of each person, which can get lost in the machinations of serious illness, our convoluted health care system and complex medical care.There are beautifully told stories in this book which illustrate the importance of each persons own decisions and choices regarding end if life care.

It is so vitally important to have
Tracy O
For the last year I've been wholly focused on illness prevention, but with the passings of people I really cared about I wanted to read more about what happens when one is in a chronic or acute disease state. This book is such an elegant and humanistic overview of what happens to a person's care when they are in a state where people's wishes for a longer life, the aims of scientifc enquiry and of the economic market intersect with the personal need for truly valuable time with loved ones and on ...more
This doctor questions the sanity of keeping someone alive at all costs, literally. He is not a proponent of euthanasia, but wants to help us think about why we would put people through painful treatments, debillitating chemotherapy, emotional and physical scarring, and questionable treatments that will not add longevity-- just because we have the technology to administer them. He urges a deep look at America's fear of aging, fear of dying, and our pride of thinking we have all the answers, when ...more
I wanted this book to be longer. Having said that, it great hearing an honest physician perspective of healthcare. We have to remember that they are people just like us under those lab coats. And so do they.
I totally need to get my end-of-life paperwork in order. Personally, I feel our healthcare system is screwed up because we haven't all addressed the issues in this book: prevention and end-of-life-care. And just this morning I read about the minor decrease in cancer deaths in the US- most of
After watching 2010 PBS documentary "Facing Death", I had got "interested" in end-of-life care, so I stumbled upon this wonderful book a year ago.

Robert Martensen, the author, is an emergency medicine/ICU doctor, but he does not bog the reader down with scientific terms. Instead, using poignant case studies and his own insights in this stage of life, he convincingly argues that the current end-of-life care is far from optimal. It's too costly and too focused using advanced technology on prolongi
An important book to read - one that would be good for discussion. The first three chapters are interesting, but Chapter 4 (on medicine and the elderly) was compelling for me and most of the rest of the book was pretty compelling as well. The book has a lot of valuable information that gets hidden in medi-speak and politics. I predict this will be read by many medical school classes.

Martensen seems to be an angry older man - angry about the politics that seem to be more important than the medici
End of life care choices can be difficult for everyone. What no one talks about is what the person dying is experiencing, what they would want, especially if that person is a child. How much do we put them through before we say enough is enough? The organ harvesting industry is also very politely examined for all the money they rake in and organs taken for less than due regard for the person in which they are harvesting from. A book everyone should read.
Sandra Clark
Beautifully written book about the evolving and troublesome issues surrounding biotechnology's abilities to keep the dying alive. What's great about this book is that Dr. Martensen writes to a reader who may be faced with important decisions about end-of-life issues and disease - it's not all academic or philosophical. Highly recommend it if you or a loved one is ill or being faced with difficult choices in health care.
May 20, 2010 Ruth added it
This book is confirming my idea that it is better to not go to the doctor. One chapter is about an elderly woman who had shortnes of breath, so they did surgery which screwed with her mind and she spent the last/next two years of her life regretting she had had the surgery. If you live past eighty, you are going to DIE sooner now than if you lived two hundred years ago....
This book addresses many of the questions "healthcare practitioners" commonly ask of themselves in the treatment of the terminally ill and chronically infirmed. As an EMT, I found many of Dr. Martensen's insights poignant and relevant. I would recommend this book to persons seeking a career in medicine or healthcare administration!
Read this for my DLS Nonfiction RA SIG. A thought-provoking look at how our many medical advances enable us to prolong life, sometimes past the appropriate or humane point; and how the privatization of hospitals has left more people than ever without medical care. Makes me want to make sure my living will is complete.
Aug 01, 2009 Jricket rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jricket by: Library "New" shelf
"A doctor's reflections," is what it claims to be and it truly is. Some of them fit right in with my way of thinking and some of them brought new material to light and made me think. As a senior citizen, I am glad to confront some of these dilemmas before I need to make a decision. A calm, reasoned, valuable book.
Terri Ann
While there were many interesting aspects to this book, mainly of which America has become a nation of keeping people alive "no matter what", I expected more personality. As a writer Martensen struggles, but I could honestly say that as a doctor, I would have been comfortable as a patient.
Thought the author would have more personal stories, but the ideas are relevant. Extension of "life" and the resultant suffering. However, there is the alternative where aggressive care can lead to successful outcomes. But, for how long? Quality of life must be considered.
A short (205 pages)thoughtful book by a physician on the patients' experiences with the "Medical-Industrial Complex". Among other things, Dr. Martensen addresses the issues of "battles" against diseases like cancer and when to pull the plug -- or not to.
Beautiful, thoughtful, grounded, compassionate insights from a doctor who's been there, on end-of-life issues. A must read for those of us who will someday die, and with loved-ones expecting to make the journey. It need not be an awful journey.
essays about illness and medical care: trials of the body, the less-traveled paths, illusions of control, elective choices. Real stories, thoughtful observations, reflecting limitations and giving permission to choose to opt out
Ellie Black
Very depressing but relevant. There are things that I needed to know from this book that weren't pleasant to learn but will help me in my medical decisions and those of my family.
Apr 03, 2009 Jen marked it as to-read
4/2/09- I heard the author being interviewed on Fresh Air on NPR. I thought he had some interesting things to say about end-of-life care in the US.
Profound is the word that comes to mind to describe this discussion of the ethics of medical practice related to end-of-life medical care.
Michael Flick
Reflections on the horrors of the biomedical-industrial complex. Wise.
deals more with the technology issue than other physician perspectives
More than a book worth reading. It's a must, for you and everyone you know.
Feb 05, 2011 Donna added it
A book that everyone should read
Dec 02, 2009 Sarah marked it as to-read
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A Life Worth Living: A Doctor's Reflections on Illness in a High-Tech Era

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“There is one essential requirement for being close with a dying person: the letting go of self-concern.” 3 likes
“Our health care approaches squander billions on extravagant treatment regimes that end up accomplishing little, as a society we refuse to adopt the small, even tiny adjustments that could easily reduce the clawing uncertainties that now degrade millions.” 1 likes
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