Friday, March 27, 2015

Review: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautifully written and really depressing.

Gawande movingly explores how Western culture has made end-of-life about medicine, safety, and quantity of days instead of life, liberty, and quality of days. Full of stories (profound, humorous, and sometimes personal) and research (clearly a scientist and a scholar) and insights (I read things I never knew before but instantly accepted when he said them), I couldn't stop reading portions of this book out loud to anyone who would listen. The author is a true smith of words.

Gawande is short on answers--our problems in this area seem intractable, but he does show the outline of ways forward. Surprisingly, even though he is a surgeon and the child of two doctors, he doesn't believe medicine is the primary answer (and often is the problem).

It was sobering to think more clearly about my own frailty. As a Christian pastor, I am very aware of mortality and try to remind others of it to make preparations for the next life, but I don't often think about the painful lead-up to that inevitable death. It led me to make better and more informed plans for myself and my loved ones.

The author is respectful of religion (his family is Hindu) but doesn't seem to be a believer himself. I wonder what he would say differently if he was a Christian.

Highly recommended but not to be read in one big gulp--the suffering is to real and raw. Best to read in pieces and ponder as you go.

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