attitudes to death, doctors, older people, physiology of aging, prognosis, quality of life, terminal care
I have enjoyed every book that Dr. Gawande has written. This is his best yet. Gawande is a MacArthur fellow, New Yorker staff writer, and surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Here he tackles the shortcomings of his own profession when dealing with the old and frail, as well as those suddenly confronted with terminal decisions. Doctors can offer hope almost at every turn, but when the number of days our loved ones have left are fewer than we ever imagine, medical decisions can often worsen one’s quality of life. A must-read for our loved ones and ourselves.
“Doctors don’t listen, Gawande suggests—or, more accurately, they don’t know what to listen for. (Gawande includes examples of his own failings in this area.) Besides, they’ve been trained to want to find cures, attack problems—to win. But victory doesn’t look the same to everyone, he asserts. Yes, “death is the enemy,” he writes. “But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And in a war that you cannot win, you don’t want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don’t want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee… someone who knows how to fight for territory that can be won and how to surrender it when it can’t.” In his compassionate, learned way, Gawande shows all of us—doctors included—how mortality must be faced, with both heart and mind. – Sara Nelson
“I never expected that among the most meaningful experiences I’d have as a doctor—and, really, as a human being—would come from helping others deal with what medicine cannot do as well as what it can,” [Gawande] writes. Being Mortal uses a clear, illuminating style to describe the medical facts and cases that have brought him to that understanding. The New York Times – Janet Maslin