#1 New York Times Bestseller
In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending
Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.
Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession's ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person's last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.
Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
We were transfixed by surgeon Atul Gawande’s inquiry into how we grow old and die. A gifted storyteller with formidable experience as a doctor and public health researcher, Gawande examines innovations in care for the terminally ill and aging, including the advent of assisted living facilities and a study about the impact of dogs, cats, and parakeets on a nursing home. Being Mortal is a fascinating book that looks death in the face with honesty, compassion, and courage.
As a physician and a patient with stage four prostate cancer, I had more than a passing interest in Dr. Gawande's book. His insights into what doctors DO as opposed to what patients NEED, is without peer in the world of medicine. He also identifies, with deep care and concern, issues that patients have to address, often without useful guidance by the medical profession. The balance between hope (things will get better) and fear (things will get worse, we just do not know when) is, from a patient's perspective, a daily question. This is but one of approximately seven or eight critical issues on which Dr. Gawande sheds considerable light and understanding.
That the book has helped my wife would be an understatement. I also expect to refer the book to colleagues who are involved in hospice, palliative care or teach our next generation of physicians.
Thank you Dr. Gawande, you have made my personal journey much clearer, and for that I am most grateful.
A great beginning to The End
A lovely book about death. No, really. The author examines our modern attitudes and practices surrounding our aging and last days, and asks himself and us- how can we do better? Colored with poignant personal stories about the triumphs and failures of our modern ways, this book is a great introduction to thinking how we ourselves would like to spend our last days, and having those hard conversations with loved ones.
On death and dying
Atul Gawande asserts he is not a “facile writer.” I respectfully disagree. Perhaps the words don’t flow out as smoothly as he might wish. Perhaps they require revision once or twice or more when they do emerge. Perhaps they have to be set down and picked up and set down again before they are ready. But once they are ready, they are very good, very pertinent, very true.
Death is among the most difficult of topics. Real death that is. Not dramatic death as it is portrayed in movies, either heroically or tragically. It may be heroic or it may be tragic, it may be calm or violent, accepted or fought, but it is inevitable. Dr. Gawande calls out his own profession as the would-be fixers of something that is not fixable and suggests a different approach. There are key lessons here: that those who acknowledge what is happening and choose hospice care have both better lives and longer lives as they pace out the time allotted to them. That the end time is one of coming to peace with one’s life journey. That the presence of loved ones is the most important thing at the end.
I read this book some time before the passing of a close relative and it was a great help to me through that time. I could clearly see that this person, who had been so vibrant and strong through his whole life, clearly recognized that this would not be the life in front of him. He was the one who helped people. Helped them into and out of cars, up and down stairs, helped them dress, helped them eat. He was not the one being helped. That was not him. And so he let go.
Being Mortal explains this. It explains that such a parting, while sad for those left behind, is the best kind of ending.