Friday, December 07, 2018

‘Being Mortal: Medicine & What Matters in the End’ by Atul Gawande

7 December 2018

I am very grateful to Nick Ewbank for lending me his copy of Atul Gawande’s remarkable book ‘Being Mortal: Medicine & What Matters in the End’. I was fascinated by Atul Gawande’s Reith Lectures on BBC Radio 4 in 2014 (which you can still listen to at: and his appearance on ‘Desert Island Discs’ (in December 2015, available at: so I was keen to read his book. ‘Being Mortal’ suggests that we make the mistake of treating dying as an illness to be cured, making the end of life a medical problem and seeing death as failure. Gawande argues that death is a natural (and inevitable) occurrence and we should focus more on managing the dying process to maintain quality of life rather than simply prioritising keeping someone alive for as long as possible. Though this doesn’t sound like a cheery subject ‘Being Mortal’ is an uplifting read, featuring the stories of many of Dr Gawande’s patients together with some of the pioneers in the fields of hospice, assisted living and innovative approaches to nursing homes. The book also movingly tells the story of Atul Gawande’s father as he and his family have to address the impossibly difficult challenges caused by his declining health. At the end of the book Atul Gawande concludes: “We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being. And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive.” Everyone should read this book.



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