In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending
Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.
Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.
Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.
Atul Gawande is the author of three bestselling books: Complications, a finalist for the National Book Award; Better, selected by Amazon.com as one of the ten best books of 2007; and The Checklist Manifesto. He is also a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1998, and a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. He has won two National Magazine Awards, a MacArthur Fellowship, and been named one of the world’s hundred most influential thinkers by Foreign Policy and TIME. In his work as a public health researcher, he is Director of Ariadne Labs a joint center for health system innovation. And he is also co-founder and chairman of Lifebox, a global not-for-profit implementing systems and technologies to reduce surgical deaths globally. He and his wife have three children and live in Newton, Massachusetts.
Surgeon and Author Atul Gawande on his new book “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End”
The Alma and Joseph Gildenhorn Book Series will feature Atul Gawande, staff writer at New Yorker magazine and professor at Harvard School of Public Health, discussing his book “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” (Metropolitan Books). Moderated by Rob Stein, correspondent and science editor, NPR Science Desk.