Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

being mortalWhat a great book! It gives hope to those who are close to the end of their life, whether from disease or old age. A practicing surgeon, Gawande’s advice is to talk with loved ones about how to make the end of their life meaningful. He gives many examples of people who choose to forego treatments like chemo that are designed to keep them alive for a short time, in order to live out their final days with a quality of life, and the ability to take care of “unfinished business.” In other words, sharing memories, settling relationships, making peace with their God and making sure that loved ones will be okay. Gawande shares his father’s story and the help he was able to give him. He also gives hope to those facing the loss of their independence due to advanced age or other reason, describing communities of older and infirm people who live with more autonomy than one receives in a traditional nursing home. Another choice he advocates for caregivers is to utilize hospice workers when necessary, instead of shouldering the complete responsibility oneself.

I know it sounds strange, but I really enjoyed this book. Gawande is so honest about the limitations of medicine, and I found his counsel on choices for how to approach one’s final days to be very positive. Both my parents died in the hospital, much to my regret, and my mom had a living will that my siblings and I weren’t aware of, and I learned the importance of sharing one’s wishes for the end of life the hard way.

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