Wednesday, October 11
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
by Arul Gawande
Medicine has triumphed in many areas, 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, consign patients to railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals 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 the quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. He offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified. Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end.