Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
By Atul Gawande
Metropolitan Books, 2014. 282 pages. Nonfiction
Thanks to modern medicine, people are living long, full lives. But despite the many strides and miracles of medicine, the never-ending barrage of procedures and treatments can actually increase the pain of the dying. Medicine is about more than ensuring survival, it is about enabling well-being. Being Mortal discusses how our healthcare system has failed us and how medicine can be a comfort and asset in death as well as in life.
This book brought me to tears several times but its ominous title makes the subject matter sound more difficult than it actually is. I was hooked from the first chapter on the history of assisted living and nursing homes. The facts Gawande presents along with his personal experiences as a practicing surgeon are not only informative and engaging, but offer new perspectives on mortality. Upon finishing his book, I feel more empathy towards the aging and the terminally ill and better equipped to handle the eventual failing health of myself and those around me.