Read Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande Online

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

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 endingMedicine 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 extends 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 depende...

Title : Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
Author :
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ISBN : 9780805095159
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 282 pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End Reviews

  • Cathrine ☯️

    Remember the scene in The Matrix when Laurence Fishburne asks Keanu Reeves whether he wants to swallow the red pill or the blue pill? In his very excellent book Dr. Gawande uses that analogy to discuss the manner in which a physician attempts to discuss treatment options with a patient facing a life threatening/ending illness. As he points out, neither choice is really what the patient needs to hear, especially an aged one. So what about a third option? This book is his attempt to open up the un ...more

  • Diane

    It took me months to find the courage to read this. I know it is silly to be scared of a book, but the topic of mortality is so depressing that I dreaded reading it.

    I had even checked out the book from the library several times, read a page or two, and then promptly returned it, thinking I would try again at some undetermined date, when I was a more evolved human being and better able to cope with illness and death and dying. (Future-Diane is very assertive and poised, apparently.)

    But this boo



    Modern scientific capability has profoundly altered the course of human life. People live longer and better than at any other time in history. But scientific advances have turned the process of aging and dying into medical experiences, matters to be managed by health care professionals. And we in the medical world have proved alarmingly unprepared for it.



    Gawande explains that historically, the elderly lived with extended families and died at home. This was the way it worked for hundreds of years. But the more a country industrializes, the more change occurs. Now the common practice in America is for the elderly to be moved into nursing homes or assisted-living places. Some still live with families, but eventually, it becomes a medical issue.



    Increasingly large numbers of us get to live out a full life span and die of old age. Old age is not a diagnosis. There is always some final proximate cause that gets written down on the death certificate — respiratory failure, cardiac arrest. But in truth no single disease leads to the end; the culprit is just the accumulated crumbling of one's bodily systems while medicine carries out its maintenance measures and patch jobs. We reduce the blood pressure here, beat back the osteoporosis there, control this disease, track that one, replace a failed joint, valve, piston, watch the central processing unit gradually give out. The curve of life becomes a long, slow fade.



    Gawande discusses the history of assisted-living places and nursing homes, and mentions research that shows ways to improve the quality of life for patients, such as giving them responsibility (taking care of a pet or plant, for example) and making sure there is enough social activity in the building. He also shares numerous stories of patients and how they coped with illness or end-of-life practices. This is where my interest started to wane -- there were just too many cases, and the book felt padded. I wondered if the whole book could have been edited down into a New Yorker-type magazine article, which would have been more efficient and effective.

    My favorite section was when Gawande shared the story of his father's illness, and how that was handled. His father was a respected surgeon, and when he was diagnosed with brain cancer, some profound decisions had to be made. Gawande is a good writer and is skilled at explaining medical terms and processes to the layperson. Here he also shared his personal feelings, and it was quite moving.

    Another good section was the advice Gawande gives on talking with patients about what their priorities are. For example, one man who was facing a serious surgery told his wife that what mattered to him was being able to watch football and eat chocolate ice cream. As long as he could still do that, he wanted the doctors to do everything they could to save his life. In another example, Gawande's father said it was still important for him to be able to visit with people, and he was scared of becoming paralyzed. Talking with someone about what they value most in life can assist with making better medical choices.

    I would recommend Being Mortal to those interested in reading more about end-of-life decisions. And don't be scared -- this book doesn't bite.

    My rating: 3.5 stars rounded up to 4

    Favorite Story

    [Gawande's father wanted his body cremated and his ashes spread in the Ganges River, which is sacred to Hindus, so a few months after his death the family traveled to Varanasi]

    "As the oldest male in the family, I was called upon to assist with the rituals required for my father to achieve moksha -- liberation from the endless earthly cycle of death and rebirth to ascent to nirvana. The pandit twisted a ring of twine onto the fourth finger of my right hand. He had me hold the palm-size brass urn that contained my father's ashes and sprinkle into it herbal medicines, flowers, and morsels of food: a betel nut, rice, currants, rock crystal sugar, tumeric. He then had the other members of the family do the same. We burned incense and wafted the smoke over the ashes. The pandit reached over the bow with a small cup and had me drink three tiny spoons of Ganga water. Then he told me to throw the urn's dusty contents over my right shoulder into the river, followed by the urn itself and its cap. 'Don't look,' he admonished me in English, and I didn't.

    "It's hard to raise a good Hindu in small-town Ohio, no matter how much my parents tried. I was not much of a believer in the idea of gods controlling people's fates and did not suppose that anything we were doing was going to offer my father a special place in any afterworld. The Ganges might have been sacred to one of the world's largest religions, but to me, the doctor, it was more notable as one of the world's most polluted rivers, thanks in part to all the incompletely cremated bodies that had been thrown into it. Knowing that I'd have to take those little sips of river water, I had looked up the bacterial counts on a Web site beforehand and premedicated myself with the appropriate antibiotics. (Even so, I developed a Giardia infection, having forgotten to consider the possibility of parasites.)

    "Yet I was still intensely moved and grateful to have gotten to do my part. For one, my father had wanted it, and my mother and sister did, too. Moreover, although I didn't feel my dad was anywhere in that cup and a half of gray, powdery ash, I felt that we'd connected him to something far bigger than ourselves, in this place where people had been performing these rituals for so long." ...more

  • HBalikov

    This is an excellent book. It is also the most important book that I have read in the past year.

    Dr. Gawande is that rare physician who can write well and write well for the layman. There is nothing glamorous about growing old. There is nothing glamorous in taking care of those who are growing old. As to the former, Gawande, makes it clear as he describes the way our bodies decline and breakdown over time. As to the later, it helps to explain both why very few doctors are attracted to gerontology
    ...more

  • David

    This excellent book is about how medicine treats patients as their lives come to an end. Today, Western medicine is all about keeping the patient alive, no matter the cost. The problem is that all too often, treatments at the end of life have limited value; they have little potential to prolong substantially, and even if they do, the quality of life is degraded significantly. Gawande, a practicing surgeon argues that the waning days of our lives "... are spent in institutions--nursing homes and ...more

  • Bionic Jean

    I read this book a fortnight ago, by my brother's bedside, at a time when both he and I knew he was dying. Any book one reads in such a situation has to be absorbing, perceptive and worth the read. This one was; it was both relevant and pertinent. I read it all.

    "We know less and less about our patients but more and more about science."

    The author of Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End is Atul Gawande. He is an eminent American surgeon and author, who conducts research into public h
    ...more

  • Michael

    A clear, uplifting, and eloquent education on the deficiencies of the medical establishment in end-of-life care and promising progress toward improvements. This Boston surgeon has already authored accessible books on the human art behind the science of medicine with his “Complications” and “Better”. He is a master at using stories of his cases to address disparities between our expectations and the reality of medical practice and drawing on diverse research to advocate for needed changes. Here h ...more

  • Jennifer

    “A few conclusions become clear when we understand this: that our most cruel failure in how we treat the sick and the aged is the failure to recognize that they have priorities beyond merely being safe and living longer; that the chance to shape one’s story is essential to sustaining meaning in life; that we have the opportunity to refashion our institutions, our culture, and our conversations in ways that transform the possibilities for the last chapters of everyone’s lives.”
    This right her ...more

  • Elyse

    I've been a fan of Atul Gawande since reading "Complications" with my local book club many years back --where 35 people showed up to 'express'.

    Our monthly Saturday's meetings are limited to 25 members of our 500+ Bay Area Book club --but members were didn't care --they were coming! After finding extra chairs --we sat down for one of the most emotionally-connected-book club discussion to date.

    There must already be at least 1,000 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon --and it that does not speak for it
    ...more