Review of ‘Critical’ by Matt Morgan

Intensive care. Critically ill patients are on the edge between life and death. They’ve been in an accident, or have self-harmed, or an illness has gained hold of their system. Their major organs are failing. A variety of medical professionals are crucial to the patients’ care. People like consultant Dr Matt Morgan, who has channelled his experiences as an intensive care doctor into this impressive and remarkable book.

A blend of memoir, history of medicine and clearly-explained human biology, Critical is a compelling read. It’s beautifully structured: the chapters focus on organs (lungs, heart, brain, bowels), with the exception of the last chapter – the Soul. Within each chapter is at least one example of a patient he has known, an explanation of their history and illness, any ethical dilemmas involved in their treatment, relevance to all of us as human beings, and finally the the patient’s outcome. This was a guaranteed formula to make me read to the end of the chapter, as I wanted desperately to know whether the patients survived and thrived. And, if they didn’t recover, then why this was so. Sadly, many admissions to Intensive Care Units do not pull through, even though the staff have done everything possible. Sometimes, it’s in the patient’s best interests for treatment to be withdrawn. Dr Morgan discusses death in a matter-of-fact but sensitive way. How can we establish if someone is actually dead? How to break the news to families? How can we know what the deceased would have wanted?

The book also contains strong warnings against smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Dr Morgan doesn’t just tell us how bad these substances are, he illustrates this with descriptions of his patients’ illnesses, explaining exactly what the tobacco and booze do to our organs. Sleep is another factor in our health; reading about how lack of sleep affects the body, I was determined to try and get more hours of it. In common with other recent ‘medical memoirs’, this book also highlights the stress, emotional strain and exhaustion of working in a busy NHS department.

In summary, an unforgettable, compassionate and informative read.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster UK for the advance proof via NetGalley. This book will be published on May 30th.

14 thoughts on “Review of ‘Critical’ by Matt Morgan”

  1. Great review. It’s a fascinating book isn’t it. Anyone who watches Surgeons at the Edge of Life or Hospital will love this book.

    1. Thanks! It’s an excellent read and well-written. Oddly enough, I don’t watch medical TV shows because I can find them too upsetting to actually see, but I’m comfortable reading about the same kind of material!

      1. Exactly how I was last night with surgeons at the edge of life last night, I had to listen, couldn’t watch but it was particularly gory last night. It is much less distressing to read.

        1. Yes, I can’t deal with the gory images (I did a 1st aid course last year which unexpectedly had some of these…)

  2. Great review! Thank you for sharing! In the past few years I’ve become more and more interested in palliative care… it’s a type of knowledge that should be more spread, in my opinion. This books will be added to my TBR list.

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you liked the review. This book was gripping to read because I wanted to know whether the patients recovered or not, when their lives were in the balance. I think it will be a great read for anyone interested in what’s going on in the body, why people do or don’t survive a medical crisis and how doctors make the decisions.

    2. You might be interested in Rachel Clarke’s next book as I understand that will be about palliative medicine and care as she specialised in that area when she qualified. Rachel Clarke is author of Your Life in My Hands published last year.

      1. Thanks for letting me know – I think I’ve read that book, so I’d be interested in this next one.

  3. Great review, NS! This sounds like my kind of read! I love getting an inside look jnto palliative care! Would love to read this! Thanks for sharing! ❤️ ❤️

    1. Thank you, Jee! I enjoyed this book so much. It was sad at times but also life-affirming.

    1. Thank you Meggy! This book would not be for everyone, but it’s really fascinating and beautifully written!

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