Themes

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 201

Illustration of PDF document

Download Being Mortal Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End is a nonfiction book by renowned American surgeon and author, Atul Gawande. The book addresses issues that are not often discussed among healthcare professionals, such as caring for those with terminal illness, the incurable, and the elderly.

Dr. Gawande claims that the American healthcare system has lost the human touch in helping patients with incurable diseases and the permanently bedridden elderly. He argues that hospitals are modern and innovative when it comes to medical technology and procedures, yet they still provide substandard care for the elderly and those who are dying.

Although the book was written as a compelling argument for changing current healthcare methodologies, another theme in the book that is briefly discussed is health policy. The healthcare system as a whole has become even more bureaucratic over the years, especially as the insurance industry has exerted more influence in the field, and Dr. Gawande argues that systemic changes need to be made along with procedural changes.

Dr. Gawande's main thesis is that quality of life, especially in the final stages of life, should be emphasized over extending life if life extension procedures will only cause further suffering for the patient.

Themes

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 182

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End was written by American surgeon and prolific author Atul Gawande. It was published in 2014 and became the basis for a PBS documentary.

The main focus of the book is end-of-life issues. The first major theme is that our society often has an unrealistic and overly medicalized understanding of death, usually based on the refusal to acknowledge the reality of death and chronic disease.

The second theme the book addresses is the way in which modern medicine, with its bias in favor of maximal intervention to preserve life, often harms quality of life by causing people to endure excessive and prolonged suffering. Gawande is concerned with the way that the default procedures in hospitals remove choice from the patient and impose painful and expensive treatments that may not be effective.

Another major theme of the book is how reforms such as the hospice movement and the use of advance directives can be part of a trend that can return control to patients and focus on their quality of life as they age and die.

Previous

Summary

Next

Characters