Being Mortal- Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End review

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande – For Every Mortal Person

What is life like near the end? Should we ask for a good life – and good end. The end is how our family will remember our last moments. And do we not want certain dignities and freedom from suffering as our life draws to its inevitable close.

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This book explores, with sensitivity and perceptiveness, how medicine has altered our expectations. Our demands and hopes for our final years, months, weeks and days. As a surgeon, Atul Gawande has watched people die. He has seen the effects medical intervention might have and he has seen what humane, non-medical intervention can do.

He illustrates his writing with real examples, demonstrating how well-meaning but tunnel-vision medical intervention can damage us, can hurt us and prolong our suffering to intolerable extents.

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Medical advances have changed our perception of what is possible – yet death comes to us all – this is a fight we cannot win. But we can, if allowed to, die with dignity. But we all need to face the reality of dying before decisions become too hard. Those who love us should not be given the responsibility to take those decisions for us. We all deserve to decide what we really want, what we are prepared to pay for it- and to make the call when medical intervention is enough.

This is not a book advocating assisted dying, but it does advocate that we face our demise honestly, make informed decisions, with expert advice, usually from doctors, as to how we want to end our days. There is hope here and an expectation that we can help ourselves to a better experience of dying.

Every doctor should read this book. Every person who will eventually die should read this book. Perhaps we can prepare ourselves and our families better for our endings, by reading this book.

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Written by Liz H

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