Into the Grey Zone
The world-renowned neuroscientist Adrian Owen reveals his controversial, groundbreaking work with patients whose brains were previously thought vegetative or non-responsive but turn out—in up to 20 percent of cases—to be vibrantly alive, existing in the “Gray Zone.” This book is the modern equivalent of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for His Hat.
I very happily read this book and described it in great detail to my almost-wife. She found it a bit creepy thinking about the fact that some people who are vegetative are actually in there, and can’t communicate! The technology is getting better, and maybe eventually we will be able to identify people who are still present in their helpless bodies.
I was so disappointed in the last chapter of this book. Not because it was bad, but because I wanted to keep reading about the fascinating insights we are gaining into the human brain. The chronological sequencing works perfectly – from the early cases where the radiation burden meant that patients could only be surveyed once, to the modern day tricked out EEG van that can peer into the brains of patients at home.
It is a very specific skill to be a scientist and be able to communicate effectively with non-scientists (I even teach a university subject about this concept!). Adrian has that gift – Into the Grey Zone is accessible to those who have little to no scientific background, and he takes the time to explain important scientific concepts without going into too much overwhelming detail.
This was an excellent non-fiction book that I will be keeping and referring to. I’m going to lend it to a Jewish nursing friend because I know that we will be able to have a robust discussion of what it means to be conscious and when consciousness appears. The ethical implications of this novel are fascinating, and in part reminded me of The Easy Way Out. How many people have been ‘murdered’ when their vegetative bodies were turned off, but they were still ‘at home’ inside their brains?
Allen & Unwin | 27th September 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback