Dr Atul Gawande's new book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End traces his own journey from being a doctor who provides all the information objectively to one who understands and empathises with the patient's worries and priorities and ensures that decision-making is shared. Confronted by the discovery of his own father's terminal illness, Gawande was forced to examine the systems of care available to the elderly and the terminally ill, and ask how we want to live when we know we’re going to die.
If there’s one fundamental thing that Being Mortal tells us, it is that we must demand a healthcare system that is empathetic to our needs. While Gawande’s aim is to critique his own profession’s attitude towards the elderly and the terminally ill, he also deliberates on what he and his fellow doctors can do to make the care they provide better.
But, perhaps more important, he reminds us to remind ourselves that despite all the advancements in medicine, ensuring survival shouldn’t be the only goal. What matters in the end is not how we die but how we live.
As writer Katherine Boo says, it's “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.”
Published in 2014