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.