Robert Martensen, an NIH historian, has a new book coming out titled A Life Worth Living A Doctor's Reflections on Illness in a High-Tech Era. It is written not so much as an academic treatise as much as a practical handbook. Martensen observes that "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."
Martensen connects personal stories with reflections upon mortality, human agency, and the value of “cutting-edge” technology in caring for the critically ill. "Timely questions emerge: To what extent should efforts to extend human life be made? What is the value of nontraditional medical treatment? How has the American health-care system affected treatment of the critically ill? And finally, what are our doctors’ responsibilities to us as patients, and where do those responsibilities end? Using poignant case studies, Martensen demonstrates how we and our loved ones can maintain dignity and resilience in the face of life’s most daunting circumstances."