What were your impressions when reading Being Mortal. What (if any) impact do you think this book may have on the way you care for persons facing the end of life?
Atul Gawande’s 2014 book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End will cause many readers to rethink the role of medicine and other issues surrounding end of life choices. As a surgeon, writer, and professor, Gawande states that the goal of medical professionals should not be to ensure health and survival. Rather, the medical field and society need to accept the body’s eventual decline and work to “enable well-being” at all stages of life, to focus on living rather than disease. Gawande challenges the treatment at all cost model that has so often prevailed in modern medicine. Instead, he asks the reader to grapple with the more complex questions of when it is appropriate to treat a disease when discontinuing treatment may be the more humane route. The book advocates a system of shared decision making in which doctors aim to understand their patients’ priorities and then help them achieve these.
Because Gawande includes personal stories and experiences drawn from his patients and even his own family throughout the book, Being Mortal reads more like a memoir than a medical textbook. Gawande also takes care to tell the stories of those living with declining health, rather than relying on healthcare professionals and family members to describe their experiences. These firsthand accounts provide valuable perspective for helping patients or family members and for considering what is important in our own end of life choices.