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 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 is a practicing surgeon and he addresses his profession’s limitations head on. Carefully but conclusively he makes the strong argument that quality of life is a desirable goal for patients and families. He explores the varieties of hospice care offering examples of freer, more fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly. He demonstrates 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.
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