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.
"[Gawande] uses a clear, illuminating style to describe the medical facts and cases that have brought him to that understanding. He begins with an anecdote that illustrates how wrong doctors can be if they let their hubris and fear of straight talk meld with a patient's blind determination to fight on, no matter what . . . He captures the inevitable physical intimacy that comes with death, which is perhaps the strangest shock to a culture that has used hospitals and nursing facilities to isolate the dying from the healthy in ways that earlier generations never could."—Janet Maslin, The New York Times "A deeply affecting, urgently important book—one not just about dying and the limits of medicine but about living to the last with autonomy, dignity, and joy."—Katherine Boo
"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."—Oliver Sacks
"American medicine, Being Mortal reminds us, has prepared itself for life but not for death. This is Atul Gawande's most powerful—and moving—book."—Malcolm Gladwell
Reviews from Goodreads
I learned about a lot of things in medical school, but mortality wasn't one of them. Although I was given a dry, leathery corpse to dissect in my first term, that was solely a way to learn about human anatomy. Our textbooks...
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Trailer for Frontline's Being Mortal
Why a good doctor told "a complete lie": On Tuesday, Feb. 10, FRONTLINE follows renowned writer and surgeon Atul Gawande, author of the book "Being Mortal," as he explores the relationships between doctors and patients who are near death.Share This