Being Mortal

by Atul Gawande

Dear Dr. Gawande, Thanks for going there, for venturing into the murky, mysterious, and sometimes frightfully morbid land of mortality. Thanks for making me confront afresh my worldview as it relates to this temporary ride we call life. Thanks for allowing us to sit with you through difficult conversations at the home, hospital, and nursing centers. Thanks for revealing the major "fails" of the health profession while not writing it off. Thanks for careful research. And thanks for sharing your own maturation process as a physician dealing in the difficult subject of death. You "humanized" this very human experience.

THIS IS A book about the modern experience of mortality--about what it's like to be creatures who age and die, how medicine has changed the experience and how it hasn't, where our ideas about how to deal with our finitude have got the reality wrong. p. 9.

Having finally read Being Mortal (published 2014), I am not surprised it landed on the NY Times Bestseller list for more than a year or that it was selected as a "best book" by everyone from AARP to the Wall Street JournalBeing Mortal will be at or near the summit of my Top Reads of 2018. 

5 Reasons To Read:

1. Age heaping no more -- "The dignity of old age was something to which everyone aspired" (p 18). No more. We no longer overstate our age due to the respect afforded elders, we understate it. Gawande explains why.
2. The creeping vine. -- "The body's decline creeps like a vine" (p 42). It is inevitable. Yet, we do all we can to ignore it to our financial and relational peril. Falling is a tell-tale danger sign. Eating alone is hazardous to one's health. Geriatric nurses and doctors can dramatically help, but they are dramatically in short supply.
3."Old age is not a battle. Old age is a massacre." Philip Roth -- Gawande, drawing on research and anecdotes from his interaction with patients, helps us see the fear of losing independence, and as he does throughout the book, provides tools to help address the challenges.
4. Ask, tell, ask -- Gawande instructs and enlightens even as he shares the story of his aging father and his struggles and insecurities as a physician addressing the difficult issue of mortality. Ask, tell, ask (p. 207) is one such "technique" that was eye-opening, one I wish I knew as we cared for my aging 98-year-old mom.
5. The spectacular failure of medicine. -- Being Mortal is not a shot over the bow of health care, but the good doctor pulls no punches as his sits bedside and lays out the hard truth with respect to the failure of his profession on several fronts relating to the aged and aging. Rather than leaving the hapless patient hopeless, Gawande helps chart a better future.

Insightful, informative, and instructive, Being Mortal is helping me grapple with my own aging and with others as the vine time creeps round them.