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“Being Mortal” – Atul Gawande

3.7 out of 4 stars.

“Courage is the strength in the face of knowledge of what is to be feared or hoped. Wisdom is prudent strength”.

This quote above took me a few readings to figure out what Gawande was trying to say but after I came to understand I fell in love with it. Essentially, being brave can wear many faces but one of them (especially in medicine) is to have courage even when you know all the odds are stacked up against you. This can come up whether you (or a loved one) are diagnosed with a terminal illness or you (or a loved one) are getting up there in age. Choices will not go away in life but having the strength to fully tackle them  head on will set you apart.

Although the line I chose from “Being Mortal” was a little confusing this does not demonstrate the entirety of the book. His writing style is very easy to understand and lets the reader feel as though they have known him for a long time. Two things that are rare when you know that he is a surgeon by day and author by night. This is due to the fact that the stigma around hospitals are that they are unfriendly and complicated. Can’t argue with sometimes, am I right?

Gawande is the first to admit that modern medicine has come such a long way. In fact he starts the book with several graphs demonstrating how as a society we have lengthened the age span a substantial amount of time. The reason for this is NOT because we are finding cures to extinct the diseases but rather we are prolonging them so they are more manageable.

However, although we have accomplished so much there is always room for improvement. The area that needs more attention are those last moments that one has on earth, and that is where Gawande focuses his book.

He takes a good look into nursing “homes” and compares them to asylums. No one can find comfort in being forced to wake and sleep at a certain time while being sentenced to group activities when they have social issues. Since people are living longer than they used to we have started running into this popularity of throwing the older people into monitored facilities because we can’t look after them for the X amount of years that have been added onto their life.

Gawande believes that the more pleasant we make the last few years the less scared as a culture we will be to talk about death. 9 times out of 10 all anyone wants is to be happy and comfortable in our most vulnerable years. Unfortunately, many are having trouble finding the joy in forced living quarters and losing their independence.

In the different chapters of his book, the reader will explore the different ways in which we can make our final chapters enjoyable. Do you believe it? I do after reading this.

Highly recommended for anyone that is of the older age bracket or has someone close to them that is. Personally, I picked this up because I have family members that have gone through serious medical issues and I know I felt traumatized by being so ill equipped of how to start a conversation around the choices available. Lets change that by STARTING THE CONVERSATION OF NEW OPTIONS!




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