Being Mortal

Being Mortal

Medicine and What Matters in the End

Book - 2014
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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.

Publisher: New York, New York : Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2014.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780805095159
Branch Call Number: 362.175 GAWANDE
Characteristics: 282 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

Ep 03: Atul Gawande brings us an exploratory work on end of life care and how we may choose to live out our final years. It is a meditation on the way life and death may be treated outside of a medicalized context. This book is deeply valuable for adults of all ages and at all stages of life.

Pukwudgies are natural healers and will appreciate the conversations this book will create.

List - Polli Recommends
LPL_PolliK Sep 06, 2016

Another eye opener, really pushed me to think more openly (and sanely) about the end of life.

If you like the thoughtful, compassionate approach "Being Mortal" brings to the difficult subject of end-of-life care...

From the critics

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Jan 09, 2018

Excellent discussion of end-of-life care. Do we trade "happiness" for "safety"? Should we introduce hospice early? What are the most important goals for those we love as they reach the final stages of life?
This is a must-read if you are elderly, caring for an aging parent, or have been given a terminal diagnosis.

Dec 21, 2017

Being mortal is an eternal truth, but why is "aging" (and "dying") has become a modern problem? This well written (even poetic) book didn't really answer (in depth).
Admirable, from the expert of medicine, to show us the limits of science and technology, and emphasize on physicians’s role - critical (if not the only) one. Pointing out the Culture that doomed many, which is insightful. But, after I learned he was former presidents’ adviser, I wish to see his opinions or suggestions on what the government could do or how the profit driven industries could change, to improve the system.

Oct 23, 2017

on 2017 reading ballot

Those of us who work in the Canadian health care system will find this book somewhat trite and less than relevant. A bit of scare mongering about physician assisted death and insufficient discussion of the impact on the emotional health of the caregivers for the end of life case studies. The book underlines the inadequacies of the private insurance health care coverage that results in the most expensive health care costs in the western world. Needless to say, we have some of the problems/ inadequate discussions in our health care system, so the book is worth reading to generate discussion. But be aware that other countries have a different system and make decisions about interventions and palliative care based on different values.

Mar 20, 2017

Thought provoking. A well written book that everyone should read. Tough questions need to be asked and answered long before someone's twilight years.

Mar 02, 2017

Through his medical life, Atul has provided a raw-cut version of human life towards the end. The author has provided a very good view on how to look your life when you realize that it doesn't have much time. This is a must-read book which will open your eyes on prioritizing things in your life.

Jan 19, 2017

DVD for my book in March 15.

Dec 09, 2016

At a certain age, we all deal with end-of-life issues in our families. I also have friends in the medical field who have to deal with this with their patients' families. It requires a delicate and empathetic touch. This is a fascinating and honest book about how a doctor came to a better understanding of this issue when his own father became terminally ill. Something every doctor and patient should read.

bibliotechnocrat Dec 07, 2016

This beautifully articulate, thoughtful book is a must read for pretty much everyone. There is lots of research here, but Gawande uses personal, truly human (in the Sacksian sense), examples to illustrate this philosophical approach to end-of-life. These examples offer a perverse kind of hope - hope that old age won't just be all bleakness and dire nursing homes. We can make choices that stack the odds in our favour of having quality of life even as the end nears. But we can't make good choices without thinking about the outcomes, about death, about what gives our lives meaning. This book is a great place to start that thought process.

Dec 01, 2016

Being Mortal is a book that is important for young and old alike. For those facing choices about where and how they will live in their last years, Gawande offers food for thought about the different options available. Younger readers will be better prepared to navigate these conversations with their parents. And of course, anyone of any age can find themselves faced with an unexpected illness that catapults them into facing their own mortality sooner than they might have wished or planned. Readers will emerge with a better understanding of the warning signs of decline that can severely limit independence, the factors that most affect satisfaction with elder and hospice care for the patients, and questions to use in discussions with doctors and loved ones.
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Dec 01, 2016

Death, of course, is not a failure. Death is normal. Death may be the enemy, but it is also the natural order of things.

Apr 10, 2016

5 Key Questions at the end of Life:

1. What is your understanding of your current health or condition?
2. What are your fears or worries?
3. What are your goals and priorities?
4. Are there any tradeoffs you are willing to make?
5. What would a good day be like?

Jan 17, 2016

When I was a child, the lessons my father taught me had been about perseverance: never to accept limitations that stood in my way. As an adult watching him in his final years, I also saw how to come to terms with limits that couldn't simply be wished away. When to shift from pushing against limits to making the best of them is not often readily apparent. But it is clear that there are times when the cost of pushing exceeds its value. pg 262

Jan 17, 2016

In the end, people don't view their life as merely the average of all its moments -- which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep. For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story. A story has a sense of a whole, and its arc is determined by the significant moments, the ones where something happens. Measurements of people's minute-by-minute levels of pleasure and pain miss this fundamental aspect of human existence. A seemingly happy life may be empty. A seemingly difficult life may be devoted to a great cause. pg 238

Jan 17, 2016

...Courage is strength in the face of knowledge of what is to be feared or hoped. Wisdom is prudent strength. pg 232

Jan 17, 2016

The choices don't stop, however. Life is choices, and they are relentless. No sooner have you made one choice than another is upon you. pg 215

Jan 17, 2016

Even our brains shrink: at the age of thirty, the brain is a three-pound organ that barely fits inside the skull; by our seventies, gray-matter loss leaves almost an inch of spare room. That's why elderly people like my grandfather are so much more prone to cerebral bleeding after a blow to the head -- the brain actually rattles around inside. pg 31

PimaLib_ElizabethT Aug 12, 2015

People die only once. They have no experience to draw on. They need doctors and nurses who are willing to have hard discussions and say what they have seen, who will help people prepare for what is to come--and escape a warehoused oblivion that few really want.

Nov 06, 2014

Consider the fact that we care deeply about what happens to the world after we die.If self interest were the primary source of meaning in life, then it wouldn't matter to people if an hour after their death everyone they know were to be wiped from the face of the earth. Yet it matters greatly to most people. We feel that such and occurrence would make life meaningless. pg 126

Nov 06, 2014

We want autonomy for ourselves and safety for those we love. pg 106


Add a Summary

Dec 01, 2016

In 1945, most Americans died at home. By the 1980s that number was down to 17%. Today it is trending back upwards as more people pursue options that allow them to live out their final days in the comfort of their own homes. Doctor and writer Atul Gawande explores how dying became medicalized in the intervening years, as science offered new innovations for beating back disease in the 20th century. Encompassing both the elderly and the terminally ill, Gawande examines how end of life care falls short of providing patients with the best possible quality of life in their final days, instead focusing on what else can be tried to fix the unfixable, and beat back the inevitable. From nursing homes to cancer wards to assisted living facilities to hospice care, Gawande reveals the shortcomings of the institutions we have created for the dying, and asks how we can be better prepared to face the question of mortality with clear eyes and compassion.

Nov 06, 2014

While rather horrific to read there was a lot of valuable information. As you age, or if you get a disastrous disease, your body and mind are eroding to varying degrees. Our medical industry is only designed with prolong life not to ensure quality of life (and this comes from a doctor within the system). You get to decide what treatment you want and don't want (and should base that on the outcomes you want and are realistic - not what the doctor tells you have to do). Ask questions and face the reality of your situation. Some times there is no good outcome. If things are grim don't be hesitant to start Hospice care (it can manage the time you have left ). There are basically 3 types of doctors. Doctor Knows Best will just say here is what is wrong with you and here is how we will treat it. Doctor informative will say here is what is wrong with you and here are 10 options to treat it. The 3rd (and most rare) are the interpretive doctors. They tell you what is wrong with you and then ask what your goals are for you life, and then help you find a plan to meet them. As you age you should know what you want out of life and what is an acceptable life and what is not. Communicate your wishes clearly so that your loved ones are not left guessing as to what to do (this is a heavy burden to put on them). Have the hard conversations early even though it is hard. Nursing homes and assisted living are mostly designed for the children of aging parents (see the first quote I added). While a lot of aged care facilities are like prisons, there are exceptions (though rare). Dr. Gawande asserts that people need a reason to live and some degree of control over their lives. and will have better lives if they feel they do. It can be as simple as a house plant to care for or deciding if they want to eat something that may be bad for them.


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