Title: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
Author: Atul Gawande
As Gawande points out, most people in the industrialized world do not die abruptly. Modern medicine is a lot better at fending off the Reaper than it was even a generation ago. Also, most of us are going to require a significant level of care as we near the end. Nearly a quarter of all Medicare expenses are paid out in the last year of life. Yet most people don't devote enough thought to how they want to live at the end. What makes our lives worthwhile? What sacrifices are we willing to make in order to live more meaningfully? At what point does letting go of life become more important than fighting death?
Gawande explores all of these questions in regards to long-term care, doctor-patient relationships, palliative care and other end-of-life choices. He interviewed experts in pertinent industries but also shares his own experiences, both personal and professional. The material can be difficult to read at times but that's sort of the point. As humans, our natural tendency is to live in denial of our own mortality. We never talk about it. We never think about it until we must. By then, we're too often making critical decisions based on lack of information, external influence from doctors and the pressure of the moment. Meaningful conversations with our loved ones and professional providers are vitally important. We should have them early, before we are forced to act in desperation.
The book's cautionary tales are brutal but Gawande does provide a hopeful path forward. Oddly enough, it did not leave me fearing death. For me, there has always been a comfort in knowing that life is finite. We have no choice but to make the most of the time we have.
So, you need to read this book. Because if you're lucky, you'll grow old. More importantly, regardless of whether you're lucky or not, you're going to die. The same is true for everyone you care about. Being Mortal provides meaningful guidance in helping one another face the inevitable.
Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month. This month's link list is below. I'll keep it open until the end of the day. I'll post September's tomorrow. Meetings are the last Friday of each month. Next gathering is September 25th.