Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters at the End by Atul Gawande

cover image of Being MortalBeing Mortal by Atul Gawande is a short book that everyone should read. The author writes not only with an expertise in medicine (surgery) — as a doctor who has talked with many patients over the years — but from personal experience with family and family friends.

The awful choices that people face when given a terminal diagnosis are much more tragic when the sick person is young. The author acknowledges this, but the main focus of the book is on people who, with advancing age, are faced with choices (both for themselves and for loved ones) between what all appear to be poor options (because returning to an earlier state of health and vigor — the only really good option — isn’t an option.) Dying is a sad time, even if the dying person is 100 years old, but medical professionals’ approaches to dying tend to be institutionalized or textbook (doctor/patient), rather than time-consumingly tailored to the needs and desires of an individual who is sick or whose body is wearing out.

An excerpt from the middle of Being Mortal:

“The simple view is that medicine exists to fight death and disease, and that is, of course, its most basic task. Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And in a war that you cannot win, you don’t want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don’t want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee, someone who knows how to fight for territory that can be won and how to surrender it when it can’t, someone who understands that the damage is greatest if all you do is battle to the bitter end.

More often, these days, medicine seems to supply neither Custers nor Lees. We are increasingly the generals who march the soldiers onward, saying all the while, ‘You let me know when you want to stop.’ All-out treatment, we tell the incurably ill, is a train you can get off at any time — just say when. But for most patients and their families we are asking too much. They remain riven by doubt and fear and desperation; some are deluded by a fantasy of what medical science can achieve. Our responsibility, in medicine, is to deal with human beings as they are. People die only once. They have no experience to draw on. They need doctors and nurses who are willing to have the 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.” — Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande

Being Mortal is about

how to figure out what is most important to an individual at the end; how perspectives change and continue to change  as the end of life approaches;

how medical professionals can help patients make decisions when available treatments don’t exist yet, are risky, or have already failed;

how to talk with each other about what we value most;

and, most of all,  how to listen to what patients and loved ones are trying to tell us.

If you like authors like Oliver Sacks, Mary Roach, and Jane Gross, who combine science with memoir in their writing, or if you like heart-piercing memoirs like When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi or New Life, No Instructions by Gail Caldwell, then you will probably like Being Mortal, portions of which were previously published in The New Yorker.

Being Mortal
Gawande, Atul
Henry Holt, 2014
9780805095159
304pp.
$26.00

Disclosure: I borrowed this book through the public library. It had been read many times and was already water-damaged when I received it. (Honest!)

 

Whereafter Blog Tour & Giveaway April 1-29 @_TerriBruce

Terri Bruce Whereafter Button

Whereafter Tour Giveaway

2 $25 Amazon Gift Cards

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My interview with Whereafter author Terri Bruce was published on the blog on April 4. Please click here to read it, and please leave a comment for the author and/or me, even if you don’t want to enter the giveaway!

Visit the other tour stops to read excerpts from the book and cheer Terri on. She’s a fun author to get to know!

April 1 Interview
Deal Sharing Aunt

April 4 Interview
Bay State Reader’s Advisory

April 4 Spotlight
3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, and Sissy, Too!

April 5 Guest blog
Jester Harley’s Manuscript Page (Anne E. Johnson)

April 5 Spotlight
Marianne Willis Author

April 6 Guest blog
Rayna Noire

April 6 Interview and Review
Shelf_Life

April 7 Spotlight
Share My Destiny

April 7 Character Interview
Debdatta
http://www.b00kr3vi3ws.in

April 8 Guest Post
Mythical Books
http://www.mythicalbooks.blogspot.ro

April 8 Spotlight
Maari Loves Her Indies
https://www.facebook.com/Maari-Loves-Her-Indies-483861215121076/

April 11 Spotlight
Highlighted Author
http://highlightedauthor.com

April 11 Review
Bay State Reader’s Advisory
http://baystatera.com

April 12 Interview
Blow Pop Books
https://blowpopsbooks.wordpress.com/

April 13 Guest blog
Butterfly-o-Meter Books
http://butterfly-o-meter.com/

April 14 Spotlight
Jody’s Book Reviews
http://www.jodysbookreview.com

April 15 Spotlight
Books N Pearls
http://booksnpearls.com/blog

April 18 Interview
Echo Fox Books
www.echofoxbooks.co.uk

April 19 Spotlight
Queen of All She Reads
http://queenofallshereads.blogspot.com

April 20 Spotlight
Author Lisa Medley
http://lisa-medley.com

April 21 Spotlight
Zenny’s Awesome Book Reviews
https://zennysawesomebookreviews.wordpress.com

April 22 Guest blog
Fang-tastic Books
www.fang-tasticbooks.blogspot.com

April 25 Spotlight
Sapphyria’s Book Reviews
http://saphsbookblog.blogspot.com

April 26 Interview
The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom
www.creativelygreen.blogspot.com

April 27 Spotlight
Lisa’s World of Books
www.lisasworldofbooks.net

April 28 Interview
The Books Chatter
http://bookschatter.blogspot.co.uk

April 29 Spotlight
Ramblings of a Book Nerd
http://booknerdramblings.com/

April 29 Interview
Roxanne’s Realm
www.roxannerhoads.com

Bewitching Book Tours button

Spring #Bloggiesta LibraryThing Mini Challenge Winner

Bloggiesta Badge text March 21 to 27During the Spring Bloggiesta last month, I offered a giveaway to participants who completed my LibraryThing: What’s On Your Shelf Mini Challenge. The prize was an annual LibraryThing membership ($10 value).

And the winner was…Florinda of The 3 R’s Blog! Find her on LibraryThing at www.librarything.com/profile/Florinda.

Thanks to all who tried the challenge!

Suggestions from a Massachusetts Librarian

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