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Being Mortal
Cover of Being Mortal
Being Mortal
Medicine and What Matters in the End
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#1 New York Times BestsellerIn 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...
#1 New York Times BestsellerIn 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...
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  • #1 New York Times Bestseller
    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.

About the Author-

  • Atul Gawande is the author of several bestselling books: Complications, a finalist for the National Book Award; Better; The Checklist Manifesto, and Being Mortal. He is also a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. He has won the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science, a MacArthur Fellowship, and two National Magazine Awards. In his work in public health, he is Founder and Chair of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation, and Lifebox, a nonprofit organization making surgery safer globally. He is also chair of Haven, where he was CEO from 2018-2020. He and his wife have three children and live in Newton, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents-

  • Introduction 1
    1

  • The Independent Self 11
    2
  • Things Fall Apart 25
    3
  • Dependence 55
    4
  • Assistance 79
    5
  • A Better Life 111
    6
  • Letting Go 149
    7
  • Hard Conversations 191
    8
  • Courage 231
    Epilogue 259
    Notes on Sources 265
    Acknowledgments 279

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    August 1, 2014
    A prominent surgeon and journalist takes a cleareyed look at aging and death in 21st-century America. Modern medicine can perform miracles, but it is also only concerned with preserving life rather than dealing with end-of-life issues. Drawing on his experiences observing and helping terminally ill patients, Gawande (The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, 2009, etc.) offers a timely account of how modern Americans cope with decline and mortality. He points out that dying in America is a lonely, complex business. Before 1945, people could count on spending their last days at home. Now, most die in institutional settings, usually after trying every medical procedure possible to head off the inevitable. Quality of life is often sacrificed, in part because doctors lack the ability to help patients negotiate a bewildering array of medical and nonmedical options. Many, like Gawande's mother-in-law, Alice, find that they must take residence in senior housing or assisted care facilities due to the fact that no other reasonable options exist. But even the most well-run of these "homes" are problematic because they can only offer sterile institutional settings that restrict independence and can cause psychological distress. Moving in with adult children is also difficult due to the tensions and conflicts that inevitably arise. Yet the current system shows signs of reform. Rather than simply inform patients about their options or tell them what to do, some doctors, including the author, are choosing to offer the guidance that helps patients make their own decisions regarding treatment options and outcomes. By confronting the reality rather than pretending it can be beaten and understanding that "there are times where the cost of pushing exceeds its value," the medical establishment can offer the kind of compassion that allows for more humane ways to die. As Gawande reminds readers, "endings matter." A sensitive, intelligent and heartfelt examination of the processes of aging and dying.

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from October 1, 2014
    Distressed by how the waning days of our lives are given over to treatments that addle our brains and sap our bodies for a sliver's chance of benefit, surgeon Gawande (The Checklist Manifesto, 2010) confronts the contemporary experience of aging and dying. Culture and modern medicine encourage an end-of-life approach that focuses on safety and protection but is sadly shallow. He frets that residents of nursing homes are often lonely and bored. Physicians are keen on intervening whenever a body is diseased or broken. Yet this medical imperative applied to terminally ill individuals can be frustrating, expensive, and even disastrous. Gawande suggests that what most of us really want when we are elderly and incapable of taking care of ourselves are simple pleasures and the autonomy to script the final chapter of life. Making his case with stories about people who are extremely frail, very old, or dying, he explores some options available when decrepitude sets in or death approaches: palliative care, an assisted living facility, hospice, an elderly housing community, and family caregivers. One of these stories is the impassioned account of his father's deterioration and death from a tumor of the spinal cord. As a writer and a doctor, Gawande appreciates the value of a good ending.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal

    May 15, 2014

    Leading surgeon, Harvard medical professor, and best-selling author, Gawande is also a staff writer at The New Yorker, which published the National Magazine Award-winning article that serves as the basis for this study of how contemporary medicine can do a better, more humane job of managing death and dying.

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Boston Globe

    "Being Mortal, Atul Gawande's masterful exploration of aging, death, and the medical profession's mishandling of both, is his best and most personal book yet."

  • Malcolm Gladwell "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."
  • Time.com "Beautifully crafted . . . Being Mortal is a clear-eyed, informative exploration of what growing old means in the 21st century . . . a book I cannot recommend highly enough. This should be mandatory reading for every American. . . . it provides a useful roadmap of what we can and should be doing to make the last years of life meaningful."
  • Chicago Tribune "Masterful . . . Essential . . . For more than a decade, Atul Gawande has explored the fault lines of medicine . . . combining his years of experience as a surgeon with his gift for fluid, seemingly effortless storytelling . . . In Being Mortal, he turns his attention to his most important subject yet."
  • The New York Review of Books "Beautifully written . . . In his newest and best book, Gawande . . . has provided us with a moving and clear-eyed look at aging and death in our society, and at the harms we do in turning it into a medical problem, rather than a human one."

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