Review: BEING MORTAL: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Reading time 2 mins

This book was right up my alley. It was recommended to me by a family while I worked in Hospice, since they had just read it and were changed by it. How to die is just as important as how we live the moments/days/years preceding our death. This book explores the real issues with our aging population and how we should start advocating for the ways they are cared for.

I was so inspired by the stories in the chapters of how people are reinventing where to care for people. Dying at home isn’t an option for so many people, but assisted living facilities and nursing homes seem to suck the life out of the residents and the caretakers. What options do we really have? This book explores how some people are redesigning facilities to actual meet the needs of the living in them and care for the sick.

Of course, there are some really sad stories within this book that questions how we handle the dying process. If you have never had to watch someone die, then these stories will give you a real life example of what it is to watch helplessly. Knowing that this reality can and will befall anyone who lives into geriatrics. Gawande goes over the history of how we deal with the old and frail, and how we are doing it today. It is horrifying for anyone who plans to get old.

Old age is not a battle. Old age is a massacre.

Gawande is a doctor himself so he sees the faults in our system and how many doctors don’t even want to deal with the growing geriatric population. Like any other specialty, geriatrics is a special field of study and a grim reminder of our own mortality. Most doctors don’t go into medicine to watch people die. This presents real problems for the geriatric population and those doctors that find themselves dealing with them. Sympathy is not enough to motivate people to have those difficult conversations. Especially when most doctors have no idea what to say, much less how to tell someone there is nothing left to do.

This is the time to think about what you want, now before you must. BEING MORTAL is not about the right to die, it is about the right to live. This book is a collection of real stories about the successes and failings of doctors to patients. I was moved and challenged to do more where I can and make my wishes known both to loved ones and medical professionals. This is a must read for anyone who plans to get old.

My Rating

Review: BEING MORTAL: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul GawandeBeing Mortal by Atul Gawande
Published by Metropolitan Books on October 7th 2014
Pages: 282
Genres: Medical, Health Policy, Terminal Care, Social Science, General, Death & Dying
eBook provided by My Wallet (purchased)

AmazonBook Depository

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 endingMedicine 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.

About Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, is a surgeon, writer, and public health researcher. He practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Samuel O. Thier Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. He is also Executive Director of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation, and Chairman of Lifebox, a nonprofit organization making surgery safer globally.

Atul has been a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine since 1998 and has written four New York Times bestsellers: ComplicationsBetterThe Checklist Manifesto, and most recently, Being MortalMedicine and What Matters in the End. He is the winner of two National Magazine Awards, AcademyHealth’s Impact Award for highest research impact on healthcare, a MacArthur Fellowship, and the Lewis Thomas Award for writing about science.

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By | 2016-12-21T09:51:53+00:00 Wednesday, December 21, 2016|5 kisses, Medical, Non-Fiction, reviews, Science and Technology|2 Comments

About the Author:

Mother, Lover, Writer, Reviewer, Social Media Princess. Karen has been a blogger since 2010. She is a US Army veteran, a medical professional, and the mother of four. She reviews books and shares mind vomit for this blog in her 'spare' time. Karen lives in New England.


  1. Let's Get Beyond Tolerance December 21, 2016 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    Definitely sounds a bit sad to read, but it’s an important topic. I can see why you enjoyed reading it, having worked in hospice.

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    • Karen Blue
      December 23, 2016 at 10:24 am - Reply

      It is not all sad, some of it was inspiring. This book shows the beginnings of assisted living facilities and talks about how some people are doing new things to keep people happy longer where they live. I found a lot of uplifting.

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