BEING MORTAL

Medicine and What Matters in the End

Atul Gawande

Named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, The New York Times Book Review, NPR, and The Chicago Tribune

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury, and disease from harrowing to manageable. But when it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and death, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should.

Through eye-opening research and gripping stories of his own patients and family, Atul Gawande reveals the suffering this dynamic has produced. Nursing homes,

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Named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, The New York Times Book Review, NPR, and The Chicago Tribune

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury, and disease from harrowing to manageable. But when it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and death, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should.

Through eye-opening research and gripping stories of his own patients and family, Atul Gawande reveals the suffering this dynamic has produced. Nursing homes, devoted above all to safety, battle with residents over the food they can eat and the choices they are allowed to make. Doctors, uncomfortable discussing patients’ anxieties about death, fall back on false hopes and treatments that are actually shortening lives instead of improving them.

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, examines his profession’s ultimate limitations and failures as life draws to a close. Riveting, honest, and humane, Being Mortal shows how the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life-all the way to the very end.

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  • Picador
  • Paperback
  • September 2017
  • 304 Pages
  • 9781250076229

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About Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande is author of three bestselling books: Complications, a finalist for the National Book Award; Better; and The Checklist Manifesto. He is also a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. He has won the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science, a MacArthur Fellowship, and two National Magazine Awards.

Author Website

Praise

Being Mortal, Atul Gawande’s masterful exploration of aging, death, and the medical profession’s mishandling of both, is his best and most personal book yet.”The Boston Globe

“American medicine, Being Mortal reminds us, has prepared itself for life but not for death. This is Atul Gawande’s most powerful—and moving—book.”Malcolm Gladwell

“Illuminating.”Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Discussion Questions

1. Why do we assume we will know how to empathize and comfort those in end-of-life stages? How prepared do you feel to do and say the right thing when that time comes for someone in your life?

2. What do you think the author means when he says that we’ve “medicalized” mortality?

3. What surprising facts did you discover about the physiology of aging?

4. Did you read Alice Hobson’s story as an inspiring one, or as a cautionary tale?

5. What does it mean to you to treat someone with serious infirmities as a person and not a patient?

6. What realities are captured in the story of Lou Sanders and his daughter, Shelley, regarding home care? What conflicts did Shelley face between her intentions and the practical needs of the family and herself?

7. What do you fear most about the end of life? How do you think your family would react if you told them, “I’m ready”? How do we strike a balance between fear and hope, while still confronting reality?

8. Our society seems to favor attempts to “fix” health problems, no matter the odds of their success. Why do you think it’s so difficult for doctors and/or families to refuse or curtail treatment? How should priorities be set?

9. What is your attitude toward old age? Is it something to avoid thinking about, or a stage of life to be honored? Do you think most people are in denial about their own aging?

10. Discuss the often-politicized end-of-life questions raised in the closing chapters of Being Mortal. If you had to make a choice for a loved one between ICU and hospice, what would you most want to know from them? What would you be willing to endure for the possibility of more time?

11. As the author learns the limitations of being Dr. Informative, how did your perception of doctors and what you want from them change? What would you want from your doctor if you faced a serious illness?

12. How was your reading affected by the book’s final scene, as Dr. Gawande fulfills his father’s wishes? How do tradition and spirituality influence your concept of what it means to be mortal?