Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

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This book was quite a sobering read that I think everyone, especially those in medicine should pick up. As Dr. Atul Gawande states at the beginning of it, medical education is so focused on saving lives that physicians may be the least prepared for their patients to deal with the inevitable flip side of this coin of existence. But this unpreparedness is not limited to medical professionals. It’s not that common nowadays to come across a writing that puts the reader face to face with the reality of aging and finality of life. It’s one thing to recognize in an abstract sense that we will all die. But Dr. Gawande narrates in very explicit detail how most of us as individuals, and all of us as a society are so not ready to deal with it that we ultimately suffer when it’s our turn. This unpreparedness is emboldened by modern medicine, which as he puts it focuses on the technical aspect of fixing the body while ignoring the sustenance of the soul. We don’t know how to die and rarely recognize when it’s time to let go because we confuse acceptance of reality with giving up.

How do you want to live out your old age if you get there? If you, God forbid, happened to be afflicted by a terminal illness, how will you want to proceed with your medical care? Will you sign a “Do Not Resuscitate” order? At what point will you accept that you’ve had enough and want to just die in peace? What will you say at the end? Have you thought about any of this?

I recommend this book not because it’s great writing, which it is, but because it forces the reader through a number of clinical cases and personal narratives to confront the very thing we’re very good at avoiding even the thought of: our own ultimate frailty and inevitable death.

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