Pub Date: 2014
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
by Atul Gawande
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.
"I have resisted picking up Atul Gawande's Being Mortal for quite a while now because of the title, which would imply mortality. Once I began reading this important book I could not stop. It addresses, without fear, questions we all ask in our hearts but rarely voice. And it gives a person the tools to begin talking about . . . mortality. One's own, one's cherished family. I gave this book to everybody in my family. Not as a Christmas gift -- I must admit it would be a downer to receive this book as a Christmas gift. But give it to yourself because you deserve clarity." ~ Louise Erdrich