Book Review: Life & Death Decisions is an action-packed look at modern medicine

Dr. Lachlan McIver has had an extraordinary career. An Associate Professor, he has worked with Médecins Sans Frontières and the World Health Organization, specializing in tropical diseases and rural medicine. Life & Death Decisions takes readers into high-stakes environments: natural disasters and civil war zones where the term ‘life and death decisions’ really counts.

This book is partially a memoir. We learn a little about Dr. McIver’s family; including how he chose his career path after the tragic passing of his father. This led Dr McIver through different clinical experiences, including practicing medicine in remote indigenous communities and in the Pacific Islands. He has also helped found a non-profit aimed at giving greater training opportunities and support to health practitioners in the Pacific.

The main part of this book, however, is quite a detailed forensic analysis of potential health crises of the present and future. Here, Dr McIver examines health challenges presented by events such as climate change and microbial resistance. This can make for hard and uncomfortable reading at times, but it is necessary given the subject matter. It’s Dr McIver’s hope that this book then serves as a clarion call to arms, and results in some action.

Whilst this is his first book, Dr McIver has written many scientific papers. Thankfully he offers readers lots of context to clarify the scientific terminology. It does makes it an informative, if heavy piece that can be quite graphic in parts. Lay people stand to learn a lot from the good doctor.

The author has served in several senior roles in different organizations. You get the sense from his narrative that he likes to seek out adventures and has a real curiosity for the world at large. He is very frank in his writing, never shying away from talking about his flaws and his own battles with mental health.

Life & Death Decisions is a book that is not for the faint-hearted. It is about one doctor’s steadfast work in an under-resourced and challenging environment. Dr McIver’s style offers a detailed look at his work’s many complexities and the daily push/pull he must negotiate. Compelling stuff.


Dr. Lachlan McIver’s Life & Death Decisions is available now through Ultimo Press. Grab yourself a copy from Booktopia HERE.


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