Being Mortal (2014)

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

It’s probably the best book I’ve read this year, yes I mean this year.

The book is about end of life care, with quite many Dr Gawande’s reflections and stories of people he encountered. I like this topic, because I think the old age is such a topic that should always be placed on the table, yet we largely ignore it till it is here “all in a sudden.”

A few quotes that I particularly like:

Our elderly are left with a controlled and supervised institution existence, a medically designed answers to unfixable problems, a life designed to be safe, but empty of anything they care about

Assisted living is far harder than assisted death but its possibility are far greater

Endings matter, not just for the person, but perhaps more for the persons left behind

When to shift from pushing against limit to making the best of them is not often readily apparent. But it’s clear that there are times when the cost of pushing exceeds the values.

And indeed, we are always taught to be persevere, to keep trying, to never give up. Is it the same when it comes to end-of-life too? Are we ever going to feel like we have lived enough? No matter how much suffering, no matter what it costs and takes, we want to ensure that the person lives as long as possible? Are doctors ready to prepare people to die, while they are trained to ensure that people live as long as possible?

I have Jean-Luc Godard came into my mind. Two weeks ago he died by assisted suicide. How many people could make that decision? How many of their spouse or children or family members would agree? How many are still capable to make an informed decision at the age of 91?

When I was reading I thought about my closed ones too. I thought about how I can bring this topic up to my parents, one of whom is suffering from chronic illness. I want to know what she prefers, what makes her comfortable. I kind of know the answers, but I want to be able to discuss this topic. I hope every adult child to be comfortable doing this with their aging parents…

Anyway, I highly recommend this book, especially to those in the healthcare field, more so to the medical specialists, but also those in nursing homes and hospice, and anyone who is dealing with old age… 😉

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