Being Mortal

By Atul Gawande

Book Cover: Being MortalI wish this book had been written two years ago.

My mother told me recently that when Thomas was ill, it was very clear that I was in denial, much more so than Thomas himself. I wish so much that any of the many doctors and nurses had broken through my denial to force me to face the reality, but I can only be so mad at them because maybe some tried but just couldn’t reach me.

This book is all about how important it is to face the end our lives, whenever that time comes, honestly and directly, and offers suggestions for easing the fear and pain at the end for ourselves and our loved ones. Gawande talks very openly about how difficult this can be for both the patient and the physician, and his own failures and successes as both a patient and a physician. (Some of the many anecdotes in the book are about his family coping with his father’s terminal illness and eventual death.)

So, the subject matter is upsetting at some times and comforting in others. He reveals ways in which the medical and elder care industries have disconnected from treating actual people – with much higher priority being given to longevity over quality of life. He also showcases some incredibly innovative solutions that are currently being attempted, with some very funny stories about the trial and error process, including a delivery of 100 cageless parakeets in one instance (this turned out to be a success).

All in all, Being Mortal is just an incredibly important book. I am quickly turning into an Atul Gawande fanatic because I remember feeling the same just after reading his earlier book, The Checklist Manifesto. He has this way of taking material that should be incredibly boring or unpleasant to read about and approaching it through a very human way that makes it easily accessibly and engaging.