New York State Funeral Directors Association

What are my chances?

If you’ve ever heard a negative medical diagnosis, those are four of the first words that come to mind.

What are the chances of survival? Is there treatment; a cure; any hope of long, pain-free days to come? Or will death chance upon you before then?

The answers, as you’ll see in “Modern Death” by Haider Warraich, M.D., rest in a swirl of new achievements.

How do we talk about death?

That’s an issue that’s plagued Warraich since he was a young doctor: death will happen to us all – it should happen to us all – and we still don’t often know what to say about it.

That, surprisingly, includes doctors and other medical personnel.

Ten thousand years ago, the average human life expectancy was about twenty-five years.

By 1800, it had increased to only a few years beyond that, and “less than 3 percent” of humans succumbed then to “old age.”

Today, your life expectancy depends on many things, such as gender, race, heredity, and your home country.

Even so, modern medicine can only prolong your life to a certain point: researchers think that the average human life expectancy will top out at ninety years of age.

In first-world countries, says Warraich, death “lives” mostly in hospitals, even though a vast majority of patients express a desire to die at home.

Alas, we die in hospitals and nursing homes more than in any other place; in fact, there are ways to predict who might enter a hospital and not leave alive.

And in a sense, we might sometimes die temporarily because of CPR, which is a relatively modern resuscitation method that Warraich points out has saved millions of lives, but isn’t always a good thing.

Fortunately, doctors have learned when not to resuscitate, when not to use “heroic” measures, and when life support is not warranted anymore.

They’ve also learned to listen when patients say they’ve suffered enough. MedicalSymbol

“For better and for worse,” Warraich says, “death has changed dramatically…. We have delayed death but have also made getting there more difficult…”

What will your life look like a decade from now? In twenty, forty, maybe sixty years?

Today, more than ever, you may be closer to living long enough to know; in “Modern Death,” you’ll see how.

Bring your thinking cap and your full attention, though: author Haider Warraich, M.D. starts with the most basic human components as he teaches readers about the life and death of cells.

That, and much of the heavy-duty science that’s here is ponderous; unless it’s where you make your living, you may alternate between having your mind blown and scratching your head.

Fortunately, Warraich doesn’t leave non-medical personnel behind: his anecdotes handily illustrate most everything he offers, and it’s fascinating.

For the very science-minded, or for anyone who dreams of immortality, this book is an absolute gem.

Medical professionals will get a nice brush-up on what’s new in being old. And if you’re just curious, “Modern Death” will please you, too. 

Chances are, you’ll like it.