Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
Described by one reviewer as the Malcolm Gladwell of medicine, Dr. Gawande’s latest work of nonfiction tackles aging and death.
Heavily anecdotal and drawing on his personal experiences with his parents and patients, the first part of the book concerns caring for the aged, specifically nursing homes.
The second half of the book concerns caring for the dying, specifically the uncaring.
Gawande’s two main points are
- Nursing homes are unsatisfactory solutions and run for the benefit of desperate adult children and staff.
- Dying gracefully is a rarity because fear (lawsuits, loss, lack of knowhow) has stymied dialogue among all parties.
Nothing new here, but it doesn’t mean that there is nothing to learn.
Without getting bogged down in extensive discussion of the legislative, legal, and financial issues, Gawande writes a comprehensive but accessible book that will stimulate some hard conversations.
It certainly did at my book club.
Just so you know—Being Mortal should come with a warning label: Not for the Faint of Heart.
WHO WROTE IT
Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, is a surgeon, writer, and public health researcher. He practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Samuel O. Thier Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School..
Atul has been a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine since 1998. He is the winner of two National Magazine Awards, Academy Health’s Impact Award for highest research impact on healthcare, a MacArthur Fellowship, and the Lewis Thomas Award for writing about science.
WHAT OTHER REVIEWERS THINK
Oliver Sacks: “We have come to medicalize aging, frailty, and death, treating them as if they were just one more clinical problem to overcome. However, it is not only medicine that is needed in one’s declining years but life – a life with meaning, a life as rich and full as possible under the circumstances. Being Mortal is not only wise and deeply moving, it is an essential and insightful book for our times, as one would expect from Atul Gawande, one of our finest physician writers.”