Atul Gawande

Being Mortal is a book that has the potential to change medicine – and lives.

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

Being Mortal

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Medicine and What Matters in the End

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

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

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

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.

Praise for Being Mortal

“Illuminating."”

—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Being Mortal, Atul Gawande's masterful exploration of aging, death, and the medical profession's mishandling of both, is his best and most personal book yet.”

Boston Globe

“American medicine, Being Mortal reminds us, has prepared itself for life but not for death. This is Atul Gawande's most powerful—and moving—book.”

—Malcolm Gladwell

“Beautifully crafted... Being Mortal is a clear-eyed, informative exploration of what growing old means in the 21st century... a book I cannot recommend highly enough. This should be mandatory reading for every American.... it provides a useful roadmap of what we can and should be doing to make the last years of life meaningful.”

Time.com

“Masterful... Essential... For more than a decade, Atul Gawande has explored the fault lines of medicine... combining his years of experience as a surgeon with his gift for fluid, seemingly effortless storytelling... In Being Mortal, he turns his attention to his most important subject yet.”

Chicago Tribune

“Powerful.”

New York Magazine

“Atul Gawande's wise and courageous book raises the questions that none of us wants to think about... Remarkable.”

—Peter Carey, The Sunday Times (UK)

“A deeply affecting, urgently important book—one not just about dying and the limits of medicine but about living to the last with autonomy, dignity, and joy.”

—Katherine Boo

“Dr. Gawande's book is not of the kind that some doctors write, reminding us how grim the fact of death can be. Rather, he shows how patients in the terminal phase of their illness can maintain important qualities of life.”

Wall Street Journal

Being Mortal left me tearful, angry, and unable to stop talking about it for a week.... A surgeon himself, Gawande is eloquent about the inadequacy of medical school in preparing doctors to confront the subject of death with their patients.... it is rare to read a book that sparks with so much hard thinking.”

Nature

“We have come to medicalize aging, frailty, and death, treating them as if they were just one more clinical problem to overcome. However it is not only medicine that is needed in one's declining years but life—a life with meaning, a life as rich and full as possible under the circumstances. Being Mortal is not only wise and deeply moving, it is an essential and insightful book for our times, as one would expect from Atul Gawande, one of our finest physician writers.”

—Oliver Sacks

“Gawande's book is so impressive that one can believe that it may well [change the medical profession]... May it be widely read and inwardly digested.”

—Diana Athill, Financial Times (UK)

“Eloquent, moving.”

The Economist

“Beautiful.”

New Republic

“Gawande displays the precision of his surgical craft and the compassion of a humanist... in a narrative that often attains the force and beauty of a novel... Only a precious few books have the power to open our eyes while they move us to tears. Atul Gawande has produced such a work. One hopes it is the spark that ignites some revolutionary changes in a field of medicine that ultimately touches each of us.”

Shelf Awareness

“A needed call to action, a cautionary tale of what can go wrong, and often does, when a society fails to engage in a sustained discussion about aging and dying.”

San Francisco Chronicle

Excerpt from Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Introduction

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I learned about a lot of things in medical school, but mortality wasn’t one of them. Although I was given a dry, leathery corpse to dissect in my first term, that was solely a way to learn about human anatomy. Our textbooks had almost nothing on aging or frailty or dying. How the process unfolds, how people experience the end of their lives, and how it affects those around them seemed beside the point. The way we saw it, and the way our professors saw it, the purpose of medical schooling was to teach how to save lives, not how to tend to their demise.

The one time I remember discussing mortality was during an hour we spent on The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Tolstoy’s classic novella. It was in a weekly seminar called Patient-Doctor—part of the school’s effort to make us more rounded and humane physicians. Some weeks we would practice our physical examination etiquette; other weeks we’d learn about the effects of socioeconomics and race on health. And one afternoon we contemplated the suffering of Ivan Ilyich as he lay ill and worsening from some unnamed, untreatable disease.

In the story, Ivan Ilyich is forty-five years old, a midlevel Saint Petersburg magistrate whose life revolves mostly around petty concerns of social status. One day, he falls off a stepladder and develops a pain in his side. Instead of abating, the pain gets worse, and he becomes unable to work. Formerly an “intelligent, polished, lively and agreeable man,” he grows depressed and enfeebled. Friends and colleagues avoid him. His wife calls in a series of ever more expensive doctors. None of them can agree on a diagnosis, and the remedies they give him accomplish nothing. For Ilyich, it is all torture, and he simmers and rages at his situation.

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About Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande

Photo Credit: Tim Llewellyn

Atul Gawande is author of three bestselling books: Complications, a finalist for the National Book Award; Better, selected by Amazon.com as one of the ten best books of 2007; and The Checklist Manifesto. His latest book is Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. He is also a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. He has won the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science, a MacArthur Fellowship, and two National Magazine Awards. In his work in public health, he is Executive Director of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation, and chairman of Lifebox, a nonprofit organization making surgery safer globally. He and his wife have three children and live in Newton, Massachusetts.

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Also by Atul Gawande

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande
Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande
Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande

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

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

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The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande  The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande  The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande  The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande  The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande  The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande  The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande  The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande  The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

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Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande  Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande  Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande  Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande

Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande

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