Medicine and What Matters in the End
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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.
From personal experience
I guess we would spare no expense when it comes to having Medicare extend the life of a loved one, but how many of us could or would pay thousands or even millions of our own dollars knowing that it only delays the inevitable? We are bankrupting the system and we know it. Hospice is the better answer.
As a physician and a patient with stage four prostate cancer, I had more than a passing interest in Dr. Gawande's book. His insights into what doctors DO as opposed to what patients NEED, is without peer in the world of medicine. He also identifies, with deep care and concern, issues that patients have to address, often without useful guidance by the medical profession. The balance between hope (things will get better) and fear (things will get worse, we just do not know when) is, from a patient's perspective, a daily question. This is but one of approximately seven or eight critical issues on which Dr. Gawande sheds considerable light and understanding.
That the book has helped my wife would be an understatement. I also expect to refer the book to colleagues who are involved in hospice, palliative care or teach our next generation of physicians.
Thank you Dr. Gawande, you have made my personal journey much clearer, and for that I am most grateful.
An important book
This book is one of the important ones. It certainly improved my understanding of aging and dying. Having had loved ones die, I know how confusing and painful the choices become. This book helped me to understand better the issues and things to consider when making those decisions. The information on Hospice was amazing. I have more understanding about how valuable they can be. Even though the topics brought up are hard ones, this book was uplifting. It also was an easy read. So glad I got to read it.