The Process of Life Ending in Being Mortal

How medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending? In Being Mortal by 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.

Thought provoking questions we all must face. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End is a wake-up call to the healthcare industry to deal with dying not as something to be “fixed” with heroic, last-minute measures, whatever the patient might say, but as a natural process in which patients who wish for cessation of pain should be heeded above all. Being Mortal is a cry for compassion, a plea for doctors, nurses, and hospitals to integrate the compassionate contemporary version of hospice care into their services, allowing the terminally ill to die in peace at home.

Atul Gawande makes his case through a series of vignettes that illustrate both the folly of the conventional wisdom of death and dying in the healthcare system and the beauty of the hospice approach that allows death with dignity. Again and again, he drives home the point that the traditional approach that is doctor-centric far too often leads to unnecessary and often unwanted suffering, whereas the patient-centric model of hospice care allows people to die in peace.

In Being Mortal Atul Gawande uses statistics in such a way that they become personal and allow you to ponder where we are in 2015 in regard to facing death as a society. From the book one gets the feeling that there is strength in getting involved early with a Hospice program. He states, " those who...entered Hospice far earlier, experienced less suffering and at the end of their lives - and at they lived 25% longer. For some making the decision to die under Hospice care in not an option they will exercise. However, the experiences of many people have had over the past twenty years are beginning to make the case. They speak to the merits of pain management, end of life quality of life.

Dr. Gawawda has made it possible for my family to discuss the dying process in real time. We are spending time while we are all healthy pondering the issues together knowing that they surely one day will be as we say, "up close and personal." Being Mortal is a road map of sorts into those in their precious last months, weeks or days in the life. For a family about to see a loved one pass on and become an ancestor. Being Mortal allows the patient, family and fiends the opportunity to have a final bonding.

This is one of the most important books that you'll ever read. It's written with sensitivity and compassion. Atul Gawande has taken a taboo subject, and made it into a blueprint for the end stages of life. It should be required reading in every medical school in the country and strongly recommended both for those nearing death and for all of those close to them.