Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Being Mortal - Atal Gawande

Being Mortal
Title: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
Author: Atul Gawande
Publication Date: 10/7/14
Pages: 282
Genre: Nonfiction
How I Found It: A popular recent release
Date Completed: 1/15/16

Summary: In the rush of medical advancement, the process of dying has become extremely different than it was for most of human history. Gawande broaches the idea of bringing some humanity and dignity back to the processes of aging and death.

What I Thought: To paraphrase a Goodreads reviewer, this book is only for people who know someone in the process of aging or expect themselves to be old at some point.....so everyone. As Gawande points out, death inevitably comes for us all. The process by which we reach that point has changed drastically since the advent of modern medicine. Current medical care gives us the ability to prolong life nearly indefinitely, but at what cost? 

I found this book to be incredibly thougtful. Gawande has clearly spent a lot of time researching and talking to those on the front lines - medical staff, family members, and those under their care. He extensively reviews the history of modern gerentology and nursing homes, topics which end up being surprisingly interesting. 

More than anything, though, I appreciate Gawande's fresh (or traditional, depending on how you look at history) perspective on end of life care and decisions. Having periferally gone through some of this with my grandparents, lots of the information felt relevent and important to me. It also really encouraged me that I need to be willing to have some tough conversations with not only my parents, but also Kevin. After all, you never know when an accidenct or illness could take place and, as Gawande stresses, it's best to have made some decisions and had some difficult conversations in advance. 

Not everything in the book was riveting. There were a few parts I skimmed through. Over all, though, Gawande keeps what could have been a very technical book relevent and interesting. Using stories of real people, including his own father and family, made the information more accessible and real. 

I absolutely recommend this book. I think it's one of those that isn't always going to be the most entertaining or indulgent, but it's important to read anyway. There truly is good, thought-provoking information and ideas here for everyone. We are all touched by death at some point and, as Gawande says, things often go so much better when you are prepared to knowledgably advocate for yourself or your loved one.

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Yes. For sure as my own parents begin to see more signs of aging. 
If You Liked This Try: Five Days at Memorial Outliers / Keep Moving

A Reduced Review: Though it's not driven by entertainment value, this book has so many important things to say about the current state of aging and dying in our culture. It's a must read for everyone.

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